Motown legend Barrett Strong has died.
The news was confirmed by Berry Gordy, who founded the iconic soul and R&B label in Detroit. Sharing a statement with Billboard, he declared Barrett Strong’s work to be “revolutionary” and praised his role in pushing the imprint to incredible heights.
“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,” Gordy’s statement said. “Barrett was not only a great singer and piano player, but he, along with his writing partner Norman Whitefield, 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).’”
Barrett Strong was born in West Point, Mississippi in 1941 before his family ventured North in search of work. Drawn to Detroit, the youthful Barrett Strong came of age in a city searching for its identity, and using music to do so.
As a performer, Barrett Strong gave Motown its first hit, with the oft-covered ‘Money (That’s What I Want)’. An emphatic voice in the Motown stable, he penned such iconic singles as Edwin Starr’s almighty protest song ‘War’.
Forging a partnership with Norman Whitfield, the two would guide The Temptations’ psychedelic soul era, notching up a Billboard No. 1 in 1971 with their beautiful ‘Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)’. Indeed, the pair would go on to earn the Grammy Award for Best R&B Song in 1973 with ‘Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone’.
Barrett Strong passed away over the weekend – he was 81 years old. No cause of death was given.