Barrett Sturdy, one in all Motown’s founding artists and gifted songwriter who sang lead on the corporate’s hit single “Cash (That is What I Need)” and later collaborated with Norman Whitfield on such classics as “I Heard It By the Grapevine,” “Battle,” and “Papa Kane Rollin’ Stone,” is useless. He was 81 years previous.
The Motown Museum introduced his loss of life Sunday by way of social media, and didn’t instantly present additional particulars.
“Not solely was Barrett a tremendous singer and pianist, however, alongside together with his writing accomplice Norman Whitfield, he created an unbelievable physique of labor,” Motown founder Berry Gordy stated in a press release.
Sturdy was simply 20 when he agreed to let his good friend Gordy, within the early days of constructing a recording empire in Detroit, handle him and launch his music. Inside a yr, he was a part of historical past because the pianist and vocalist for “Cash,” a million-seller launched in early 1960 that was Motown’s first main hit. Sturdy by no means once more got here near the success of “Cash” on his personal, and many years later he fought for recognition that he helped write it. However, with Whitfield, he put collectively a productive and eclectic songwriting staff.
Whereas Gordy’s “Sound of Younger America” was criticized for being too shiny and repetitive, Whitfield-Sturdy’s staff delivered stern and thematic work, together with timeless ballads like “I Want It Would Rain” and “Simply My Creativeness (Run With Me)”. With “I Heard it By the Grapevine,” they delivered an up-tempo, call-and-response tune for Gladys Knight and the Pips and a darkish, hypnotic ballad for Marvin Gaye, his 1968 model, one in all Motown’s all-time sellers.
As Motown grew to become extra politically acutely aware late within the decade, Barrett Whitfield penned “Cloud 9” and “Psychedelic Shack” for The Temptations and for Edwin Starr’s protest anthem “Battle” and his extensively quoted, “Battle! What’s It for? Nothing?” by no means!”
“With ‘Battle’,” Sturdy advised LA Weekly in 1999, “I had a cousin who was a paratrooper who was badly wounded in Vietnam. He was badly wounded by shrapnel and crippled for all times. You discuss this stuff with your loved ones once you’re sitting at house, and it evokes you to say one thing about it.”
Different hits for Whitfield-Sturdy, principally for the Temptations, included “I Cannot Get Subsequent to You”, “That is the Method Love Is” and “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” (typically spelled “Papa Was a Rolling Stone”) “). Artists whose songs they’ve coated have ranged from The Rolling Stones (Simply My Fantasy) and Aretha Franklin (I Hope It Rains) to Bruce Springsteen (“Battle”) and Al Inexperienced (“I Cannot Be On Your Aspect”).
Sturdy spent a part of the Nineteen Sixties recording for different labels, leaving Motown once more within the early Nineteen Seventies and producing a handful of solo albums, together with “Stronghold” and “Love is You”. In 2004, he was voted into the Songwriters Corridor of Fame, which cites him as “a pivotal determine in Motown’s adolescence”.
Whitfield handed away in 2008.
Music by Sturdy and different Motown writers later appeared within the Broadway hit “Ain’t They Proud: The Life and Instances of the Temptations”.
Sturdy was born in West Level, Mississippi and moved to Detroit just a few years later. He was a self-taught musician who discovered to play the piano with out the necessity for classes, and together with his sisters fashioned an area gospel group, the Highly effective Singers. In his teenagers, he grew to become acquainted with artists resembling Franklin, Smokey Robinson, and Gordy, who admired his writing and piano taking part in. Mockingly, “Cash” with its opening cry, “One of the best issues in life are free / However you can provide them to the birds and the bees”, will result in a combat – over the cash.
Initially listed among the many writers, Sturdy typically talked about his innovation together with his piano blitz whereas jamming to Ray Charles’ “What’d I Say” within the studio. However solely many years later did he be taught that Motown had eliminated his title from the credit, costing him royalties for a people commonplace coated by the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and lots of others and a memento on John Lennon’s jukebox. Sturdy’s authorized alibi was weakened as a result of he took so lengthy to ask for his title again. (Jordy is likely one of the tune’s credited writers, and his attorneys claimed Sturdy’s title solely appeared as a consequence of a clerical error.)
“Songs outlast individuals,” Sturdy advised The New York Instances in 2013. “The true motive Motown does enterprise is publishing. Data have been only a solution to get songs out to the general public. The true cash is in publishing, and for those who’re publishing, cling on to it. That is all there’s to it. If you happen to give it up, you surrender your life and your legacy. When you’re gone, it is on These songs are in motion.”