Musical producer

Motown songwriter-producer Lamont Dozier dies at 81

NEW YORK (AP) — Lamont Dozier, the middle name of the famed Holland-Dozier-Holland team that wrote and produced “You Can’t Hurry Love,” “Heat Wave” and dozens of other hits and contributed to making Motown a vital record company of the 1960s and beyond, has died at the age of 81.

Dozier died “peacefully” Monday at his home near Scottsdale, Arizona, according to a statement released by his family. The cause of death was not immediately determined. Duke Fakir, a close friend and the last surviving member of the original Four Tops, called Dozier a “handsome, talented guy” with an uncanny sense of what worked best for any given band.

“I like to call Holland-Dozier-Holland the ‘music tailors’,” he said in a telephone interview on Tuesday. “They could take any artist, call them into their office, talk to them, listen to them and write them a top 10 song.”

In Motown’s historic and self-defining rise to the “Sound of Young America”, Holland-Dozier-Holland stood out even against peers as gifted as Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder and Barrett Strong. Over a four-year period, from 1963 to 1967, Dozier and his brothers Brian and Eddie Holland created more than 25 top 10 songs and mastered the mix of pop and rhythm and blues that allowed the Detroit label and the founder Berry Gordy to challenge the boundaries between Black and White Music and compete with the Beatles on the airwaves.

For the Four Tops, they wrote “Baby I Need Your Loving” and “Reach Out (I’ll Be There)”, for Martha and the Vandellas, they wrote “Heat Wave” and “Jimmy Mack”, for Marvin Gaye “Baby Don’t You Do It” and “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)”. The music has survived through countless soundtracks, samplings and radio broadcasts, in covers of the Rolling Stones, Linda Ronstadt, James Taylor and many others and through generations of songwriters and musicians influenced by the sound. Motown.

“Their structures were simple and straightforward,” wrote Gerri Hirshey in the Motown story “Nowhere to Run: The Story of Soul Music,” published in 1984. fast-food jingle that lurks, subliminally, until what it connects to true hunger.”

Brian Wilson, Ronnie Wood and Mick Hucknall were among the many musicians paying tribute on Tuesday. Carole King, who along with her then-husband Gerry Goffin was another 60s hitmaker, tweeted that “striving to keep up with them has made us better songwriters”.

HDH’s polish was a perfect fit for Motown’s signature act, Diana Ross and the Supremes, for whom they wrote 10 No. 1 songs, including “Where Did Our Love Go”, “Stop! In the Name of Love” and “You Can’t Hurry Love.” Expectations were so high that when “Nothing But Heartaches” failed to chart in the top 10 in 1965, Gordy sent out a memo demanding that Motown release only chart toppers for the Supremes, an order to which HDH complied with “I Hear a Symphony” and several others. recordings.

Holland-Dozier-Holland weren’t above formulas or closely repeating a previous hit, but they worked in a variety of moods and styles: the laid-back joy of “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You) “, the growing desire for “Heat Wave”, the urgency of “Reach Out (I’ll Be There)”. Dozier focused on melody and arrangements, whether it’s the haunting echoes of the Vandellas’ backing vocals on “Nowhere To Run,” the flashing guitar lights that enliven The Supremes’ “You Keep Me Hanging On,” or hypnotic gospel piano on Gaye’s “May I have a witness.”

“All the songs started out as slow ballads, but when we were in the studio we were picking up the pace,” Dozier told the Guardian in 2001. to something for your parents.” The emotion was still there, it was just disguised as the optimism that the accelerated pace gave you.

HDH and Motown’s first ended in 1968 amid questions and legal disputes over royalties and other issues. HDH left the label and neither party would recover. The Four Tops and Supremes were among the artists who suffered from no longer having their most reliable writers. Meanwhile, HDH’s efforts to start their own business were far from Motown. The Invictus and Hot Wax labels both disappeared within a few years, and Dozier would recall in disbelief the Hollands turning down future superstars like Al Green and George Clinton. HDH released several hits, including Freda Payne’s “Band of Gold” and Honey Cone’s “Want Ads”.

Holland-Dozier-Holland was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1988 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame two years later. Dozier single-handedly had a top 20 with “Trying to Hold on to My Woman,” helped produce Aretha Franklin’s “Sweet Passion” album, and collaborated with Eric Clapton and Hucknall among others. Her biggest hit was co-writing Phil Collins’ “Two Hearts,” from the 1988 movie “Buster,” a Motown-style mid-tempo ballad that won a Grammy and a Golden Globe and received a nomination. at the Oscars.

HDH reunited for a staging of “The First Wives Club,” which premiered in 2009, but their return together was brief and unhappy. Dozier and the Hollands often clashed, and Dozier dropped out before the show started. “I can’t see us working with Lamont ever again,” Eddie Holland wrote in “Come and Get These Memories,” a 2019 memoir by Hollands, the same year Dozier released the memoir “How Sweet It Is.”

Dozier acknowledged that his early successes conflicted with his family life, but he eventually settled down with Barbara Ullman, who died in 2021 after more than 40 years of marriage. His children included songwriter-producer Beau Dozier and composer Paris Ray Dozier.

Like so many Motown artists, Dozier was born in Detroit and raised in a family of singers and musicians. He sang in the choir at his Baptist church and his love for words was affirmed by a teacher who he recalls loved one of his poems so much she kept it on the board for a month. . By the late 1950s he was a professional singer and eventually signed with Motown, where he worked first with Brian Holland and then Eddie Holland, who wrote most of the lyrics.

Some of Motown’s biggest hits and catchphrases come from Dozier’s domestic life. He remembered his grandfather addressing women as “Sugar Pie, Bunch of Honey,” the opening words and continuing chorus of “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)” from Four Tops. Four Tops’ hit “Bernadette” was inspired by the three songwriters having issues with women named Bernadette, while a falling out with another Dozier girlfriend helped inspire a Supremes favorite.

“She was quite horny because I was more of a ladies’ man at the time and cheating on her,” Dozier told the Guardian. “So she started scolding me and swaying me until I said, ‘Stop it! In the name of love!’ And as soon as I said it, I heard a cash register in my head and I laughed. My girlfriend didn’t find it very funny: we broke up. The only ones who were happy about it were the Supremes.