Barrett Strong, a singer and songwriter who was a pioneering member of the Motown stable, has died at the age of 81.
The news of Strong’s death was confirmed by the Motown Museum today (January 30). “It is with great sadness that we share the passing of legendary @ClassicMotown singer and songwriter Barrett Strong,” it shared in a tweet.
No cause of death has been given at the time of writing.
Strong rose to fame after appearing on Motown’s first hit single, ‘Money (That’s What I Want)’, which was released in 1959. The track peaked at Number Two on the R&B singles chart and Number 23 on the Billboard Hot 100. It would go on to be covered by many other artists, including The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.
It is with great sadness that we share the passing of legendary @ClassicMotown singer and songwriter Barrett Strong.
The voice behind @motown‘s first hit, the iconic “Money (That’s What I Want),” was born in West Point, Mississippi on February 5, 1941 and was raised in Detroit. pic.twitter.com/RvINyjJgcc
— Motown Museum (@Motown_Museum) January 30, 2023
After a brief stint working at a Chrysler factory in the ‘60s to make enough money to provide for his family, Strong returned to Motown as a songwriter. During that period, he and producer Norman Whitfield penned a number of classic songs, including ‘I Heard It Through The Grapevine’, ‘War’, and ‘Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone’.
After collecting a Grammy for Best R&B Song for the latter track, the star left Motown for Capitol Records, where he continued as a solo artist. He released his debut album ‘Stronghold’ in 1975, followed by ‘Live & Love’ a year later, but would only release a further two LPs in the subsequent decades.
In 2004, Strong’s rich contribution to music was recognised with an induction into the Songwriters Hall Of Fame. His final album, ‘Stronghold II’, followed in 2008.
“I am saddened to hear of the passing of Barrett Strong, one of my earliest artists, and the man who sang my first big hit ‘Money (That’s What I Want)’ in 1959,” Motown founder Berry Gordy wrote in a statement given to Variety.
“Barrett was not only a great singer and piano player, but he, along with his writing partner Norman Whitfield, created an incredible body of work, primarily with The Temptations. Their hit songs were revolutionary in sound and captured the spirit of the times like ‘Cloud Nine’ and the still relevant, ‘Ball of Confusion (That’s What the World is Today).’ My heartfelt condolences go out to his family and friends. Barrett is an original member of the Motown family and will be missed by all of us.”
“Last night – or was it the night before? – the opening riff of this tune was threaded through my dreams,” Billy Bragg wrote on Twitter following the news. “3 mins and 48 secs of perfection. And now I hear that Barrett Strong, who wrote the song with Norman Whitfield has passed away. Damn.”
Last night – or was it the night before? – the opening riff of this tune was threaded through my dreams. 3 mins and 48 secs of perfection. And now I hear that Barrett Strong, who wrote the song with Norman Whitfield has passed away. Damn. https://t.co/vi7nvw2UFY
— Billy Bragg (@billybragg) January 30, 2023
The Thick Of It writer Ian Martin added: “I was only a kid when Money was released and then endlessly covered, but God it sounded so hard and transgressive and exciting. It disavowed Rule 1 of pop music: that love, LOVE was the best thing in life. And that teenage-warpath beat. Perfect.”
RIP Barrett Strong. I was only a kid when Money was released and then endlessly covered, but God it sounded so hard and transgressive and exciting. It disavowed Rule 1 of pop music: that love, LOVE was the best thing in life. And that teenage-warpath beat. Perfect. pic.twitter.com/PZvOjmyHYk
— Ian Martin (@IanMartin) January 30, 2023
See more tributes below.
“The real money is in the publishing, and if you have publishing, then hang on to it. That’s what it’s all about. If you give it away, you’re giving away your life, your legacy. Once you’re gone, those songs will still be playing.” – Barrett Strong (RIP) https://t.co/PBVnUtbA3p
— DJ Soul Sister (@djsoulsister) January 30, 2023
Gos bless Barrett Stronghttps://t.co/zWcfTYUreF
— Mark Lamarr (@lamarr_mark) January 30, 2023
RIP to the great Barrett Strong. Put his hand on so many classic hits. https://t.co/kyzeIhFfz6
— Low Cut Connie (@LowCutConnie) January 30, 2023
And when he died, all he left us was some of the greatest songs ever.
RIP #BarrettStrong https://t.co/hOiyeXw6Ax
— Samuel West 💙💛 (@exitthelemming) January 30, 2023
“Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong
Are here to make everything right that’s wrong.
Holland and Holland and Lamont Dozier, too
Are here to make it all okay with you” ~ @billybragg
— Errol Nazareth (@ErrolNazareth) January 30, 2023
Motown trailblazer Barrett Strong was one of their most gifted songwriters (Money. I Heard It Through The Grapevine. War. Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone etc.)
He once said, “I made people smile. I made people have babies. I made people do a lot of things.”
— Lorna_TVeditor (@Lorna_TVeditor) January 30, 2023
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