Thursday, September 18, 2008

Norman Whitfield Dies At 67

Norman Whitfield, the songwriter and producer behind a string of Motown classics has died at the age of 67. According to reports, Whitfield suffered from complications of diabetes and had recently emerged from a coma.

Whitfield first came to Motown at the age of 19 and had his first success co-writing Marvin Gaye's 1963 hit Pride and Joy. He solidified his position at the label when he became the main producer for The Temptations. Along with his songwriting partner (lyricist Barrett Strong), Whitfield churned out a string of classics for The Tempts: "Ain't Too Proud To Beg", "Beauty Is Only Skin Deep", "You're My Everything", "Cloud Nine", "I Can't Get Next To You", "Papa Was A Rolling Stone", and many more. During this time, Whitfield also worked with other Motown artists, including Gladys Knight & the Pips and Marvin Gaye (both of their versions of "I Heard It Through the Grapevine"), Edwin Starr ("War") and The Undisputed Truth ("Smiling Faces Sometimes").

After leaving Motown in 1973, Whitfield went on to enjoy success working with the group Rose Royce. In addition to the soundtrack to the 1976 movie "Car Wash" (whose title track was a #1 smash for the group), Whitfield also produced such Rose Royce hits as "Ooh Boy", "Wishing On A Star", and "Love Don't Live Here Anymore".

Among Whitfield's many honors are a Grammy in 1972 for Best R&B song for the Temptations' "Papa Was a Rolling Stone" and induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2004. For a list of some of his other songwriting/production credits, click here.

Below is a clip of The Temptations performing one of their most famous collaborations with Norman Whitfield, 1966's "(I Know) I'm Losing You", on a 1967 episode of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.


Barbara(aka Layla) said...

Damn! Another one. :(

pjazzypar said...

Norman Whitfield was one of the younger songwriters who took the Temptation into a new era. I remember how Dennis didn't hated that damn song (Papa Was A Rolling Stone) because he rel father had actually died on "The 3rd of September". Norman, sometimes working with Barrett Strong wrote some timeless music for the Temps.

Lori said...

What a songbook! If only today's artists were writing songs like Mr. Whitfield's. Good stuff.

Malcolm said...

Barbara: Yeah, sucks doesn't it?

Pjazzy: I can't imagine how revolutionary Tempts songs like "Cloud Nine" and "Runaway Child, Running Wild" must have sounded compared to their earlier tunes like "My Girl" and "Please Return Your Love To Me". I think that's one reason they had staying power is that they changed with the times (thanks to the tunes of Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong). Norman should have been more sensitive to Dennis' feelings and changed that lyric in "Papa Was A Rolling Stone".

Lori: Until I did some research on Norman Whitfield, I had forgotten that he wrote "I Heard It Through the Grapevine". Not only that, but I didn't even realize that he also co-wrote "Pride and Joy", "A Needle In A Haystack", and "He Was Really Saying Something".

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