By Joseph Green-Bishop
Texas Metro News Correspondent
The Motown lyricist, Barrett Strong Jr., whose plethora of hit records included, “I Heard it through the Grapevine,” which quickly became an anthem of sorrow for jilted lovers, has died. Mr. Strong was 81 years old, said a statement from the Motown Museum, on social media.
Mr. Barrett Strong also co-wrote “Ball of Confusion” and “Money, That’s What I Want,” two popular hits in the 1960s and 1970s with his collaborator, Mr. Norman Whitfield.
The two teamed up to write music chart hits performed by artists such as Marvin Gaye, Gladys Knight & The Pips, Creedence Clearwater Revival , and The Temptations; among others. He also co-wrote, “Papa was a Rollin Stone,” “War,” and “Just My Imagination Running Away With me.”
Mr. Strong, who was born in Mississippi, was one of the first artists to join Motown, which started in a Detroit rowhouse in 1959. As a singer, Mr. Strong released one song before becoming a full-time songwriter.
At the age of five while living in Detroit with his parents, Mr. Strong became fascinated by music and with a piano that his father, a preacher, purchased and placed in the family’s living room, by the time he was a teenager he was accompanying a gospel ensemble composed of his sisters and performed in local churches.
He met Motown’s founder, Berry Gordy, when he was 14 years old and a few years later he wrote the song, “Money,” which quickly became a hit after being played on air by local radio stations. Later, Mr. Gordy became Mr. Strong’s manager.
Mr. Strong moved to Chicago where he signed a recording contract with a label in that city. That business in the ‘Windy City’ had a brief life and at his closure, Mr. Strong returned to Detroit to work at Motown. Shortly thereafter, he and Mr. Whitfield began to produce hits.
In a statement made after he learned of Mr. Strong’s death, Mr. Gordy, whose company moved from Detroit to Los Angeles in 1972, said that the two artists had produced an “incredible body of work.” Proceeds from the sale of the song, “Money,” made the Motown’s relocation financially possible, music historians said.
Mr. Strong is survived by his seven children and 10 grandchildren. His wife, Mrs. Sandy White, passed in 2002. She and her husband were married for 35 years.