Barrett Strong, a most talented songwriter and one of Motown’s founding artists, has passed away. He was 81.
The Motown Museum announced his death on social media on Sunday, but did not immediately provide further details.
“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,” Motown founder Berry Gordy said in a statement.
The full statement: “It is with great sadness that we share the passing of legendary Classic Motown 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.
“After touring throughout the city with his siblings, Strong’s ethereal vocal style caught the attention of Jackie Wilson who introduced him to Berry Gordy. In April of 1959, Barrett was signed to Gordy’s Tamla Records and, later that month, released his first-ever single, “Let’s Rock.”
“In July of that same year—after overhearing an in-studio conversation between Mr. Gordy and Motown songwriter Janie Bradford—Strong started playing the piano and, within moments, “Money (That’s What I Want)” was created.
“The song eventually reached #2 on the U.S. R&B charts, #23 on the Billboard Hot 100 and ultimately #288 on Rolling Stone’s “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.”
Mr. Strong later collaborated with Motown producer Norman Whitfield to write some of the label’s most successful and critically acclaimed songs, such as “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” which was made famous by both Marvin Gaye and Gladys Knight & the Pips, Edwin Starr’s “Where I Lay My Hat (That’s My Home),” the Temptations’ 1973 Recording Academy / GRAMMY Award-winning “Papa Was a Rolling Stone,” and 1971′
Barrett’s prolific career and contributions as one of Motown’s top lyricists earned him induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2004.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends, and Motown family and fans around the world.