HomeEntertainmentBarrett Strong, Motown stalwart who sang ‘Money,' dies at 81

Barrett Strong, Motown stalwart who sang ‘Money,’ dies at 81

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Barrett Robust, an essential determine within the early days of Motown Data who sang on the studio’s first hit single — “Cash (That’s What I Need)” — and later co-wrote a few of its most enduring songs, together with “Warfare,” “I Heard It Via the Grapevine,” and “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone,” died Jan. 28 at his dwelling in La Jolla, Calif. He was 81.

His son Chelson Robust confirmed the demise however didn’t present a selected trigger.

Opening with an ebullient piano riff and the indelible lyrics “One of the best issues in life are free/However you can provide them to the birds and bees,” the 1960 launch of “Money” was a breakthrough second for Berry Gordy Jr.’s nascent recording firm, which was headquartered in a Detroit home emblazoned with the signal “Hitsville U.S.A.”

Later coated by the Beatles, the Doorways and the Rolling Stones, amongst different bands and performers, “Cash” rapidly shot to No. 2 on the R&B chart and No. 23 on the Billboard Scorching 100. That spring, David A. Carson, in “Grit, Noise, & Revolution,” wrote: “It appeared like everybody was turning up the radio to listen to the pounding piano riffs that kicked off” the tune.

Mr. Robust was an adolescent when he met Gordy, a good friend of his sister. On a go to to the Robust home, Gordy heard Mr. Robust enjoying Ray Charles songs on the piano and invited him to the studio to report.

There are competing variations of the origin of “Cash.”

“Gordy was working with Motown songwriter and workplace administrator Janie Bradford on a brand new tune,” according to the Motown Museum. “He defined to her the factor he wished most at that second was not love however cash. Barrett Robust was within the studio that day and heard them working.”

“He slid subsequent to me on the piano bench, enjoying away and becoming a member of me singing the refrain,” Berry wrote in “To Be Loved: The Music, the Magic, the Memories of Motown.” His voice was soulful and passionate. I didn’t should assume twice about who I may get to sing my tune. Barrett was it.”

Mr. Robust defined it a unique approach, telling the New York Instances in 2013, in an account backed up a recording engineer, that the tune emerged from him riffing on a Charles tune. Gordy heard the instrumentals, Mr. Robust mentioned, after which he, Gordy and Bradford wrote the lyrics.

The matter was by no means fairly settled. Gordy and Mr. Robust squabbled over royalties and credit score for “Cash,” with Mr. Robust accusing Motown of eradicating him from copyright paperwork. Both approach, no matter fame Mr. Robust earned on radios throughout America didn’t fairly final. His follow-up songs, together with “Sure, No, Perhaps So” in 1960, weren’t hits.

In 1961, he left Motown for different studios however was lured again a couple of years later by a possibility to put in writing songs. With producer Norman Whitfield, he co-wrote “I Heard it Through the Grapevine,” carried out by Marvin Gaye and Gladys Knight & the Pips; “War” for Edwin Starr; and a number of other songs for the Temptations, together with “Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)” and “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone.”

Within the case of “Warfare,” Mr. Robust was impressed by present occasions.

“I had a cousin who was a paratrooper that acquired harm fairly dangerous in Vietnam,” Mr. Robust told L.A. Weekly. “I additionally knew a man who used to sing with Lamont Dozier that acquired hit by shrapnel and was crippled for all times. You speak about these items along with your households while you’re sitting at dwelling, and it conjures up you to say one thing about it.”

Completely nothing, take heed to me, oh

Barrett Robust Jr. was born Feb. 5, 1941, in West Level, Miss., the one son of six kids. He was 4 when the household moved to Detroit, and his father, a minister, quickly purchased him a piano. He started singing in center faculty, which he attended with Aretha Franklin and Dozier, according to the Detroit Free Press.

“I believed I used to be actually a star then,” he informed the paper.

Earlier than connecting with Gordy, he carried out at native music joints round Detroit.

Mr. Robust drifted out and in of music, working at Chrysler on the manufacturing line and at an automat restaurant, amongst different blue-collar jobs that supported his household. When Gordy moved Motown to Los Angeles within the early Nineteen Seventies, Mr. Robust didn’t instantly need to transfer his household. He stayed in Detroit and signed with Epic Data, releasing two albums — “Stronghold” (1975) and “Stay & Love” (1976), and solely later moved to California.

His spouse of 35 years, the previous Sandy White, died in 2002. Survivors embody seven kids and 10 grandchildren.

Mr. Robust by no means achieved the celebrity that Gordy did, partially as a result of he was naive concerning the enterprise of music.

“I by no means preferred the enterprise aspect,” he informed the Free Press. “I liked the artwork. However I didn’t know something again then.”

Nonetheless, he mentioned he was glad together with his profession.

“I be ok with it,” Mr. Robust informed the paper. “I did one thing. I did my half, what I used to be placed on this earth to do. I made individuals smile. I made individuals have infants. I made individuals do plenty of issues. So I contributed one thing to my being right here.”

Supply: www.washingtonpost.com

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