Motown songwriter Lamont Dozier dies at 81

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At the legendary Motown label, Lamont Dozier wrote hits for Diana Ross and Marvin Gaye – and music history. He has now passed away at the age of 81.

Lamont Dozier wrote some of Motown's biggest and most well-known hits

His name might falter even those who are not unfamiliar with recent music history. Lamont Dozier was not just a man in the background, but above all part of a legendary trio whose names are now much more common: Holland, Dozier, Holland – the songwriters and producers shaped the Motown label in Detroit, Michigan.

Lamont Dozier was born there on June 16, 1941, and he tried unsuccessfully as a singer early on. Berry Gordy recognized the talent anyway and brought Dozier to his Motown label, which he had founded three years earlier  in 1962 – a stroke of luck for both sides , because without the songs by Holland, Dozier, Holland, Motown would perhaps not be an independent term for the soul sound of the 1960s: self-confident and funky, at first glance apolitical, but the accompanying music of the black civil rights movement.

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Home of soul in the 1960s: the Motown Museum Hitsville in Detroit

Detroit in the Rust Belt, America's largest industrial region, was home to the great US auto and motor factories – the Motor Town, from which Berry Gordy was born made the name Motown without further ado. Following the example of the production lines in the car factories, his label should produce hits on the assembly line.

The brothers Eddie and Brian Holland and Lamont Dozier implemented Gordy's goal, soon Motown also reached a white audience and not only ended up in the R&B charts, which were dominated by black people, but in the big ones, the Billboard charts, completely above.

“The Black Bach”

If you leaf through the booklet of a Motown compilation today, you will constantly come across their names: under “Heat Wave” by Martha & The Vandellas, “You Can't Hurry Love”, “Stop! In the Name of Love” and several other songs by The Supremes around lead singer Diana Ross, “I Can't Help Myself” by the Four Tops, “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)” by Marvin Gaye.

Dozier was involved in a dozen number one hits, and 35 songs he co-wrote made the US Top 10. With the He worked out melodies and lyrics for the Holland brothers, wrote refrains and composed on the piano. Dozier once said that the trio had always had a high degree of artistic freedom.

In 1968 the trio left Motown in a dispute over better pay and founded their own labels Invictus and Hot Wax. In the 1970s, Dozier released his own albums, one of which bore the self-confident title “Black Bach”. His most famous songs were “Going Back To My Roots” and “Why Can't We Be Lovers”.

With their tracks, Dozier and the Holland brothers influenced the music world and laid the foundation for much of what followed in the later decades: Motown's successes with the Jackson 5 or Stevie Wonder and the disco era in the 1970s, which turned to the Soul-opening pop music from the 1980s or hip-hop that still uses Motown numbers for sampling.

The Supremes' “Where Did Our Love Go” was the Motown label's first #1 hit in 1964

Countless artists have covered Dozier's tracks, including Phil Collins, who himself not only did the Supremes classic “You Can't Hurry Love”, but also co-wrote the 1986 hit “Two Hearts” with Dozier. Collins, then a superstar, retaliated with the chorus on Dozier's 1991 single “The Quiet's Too Loud”.

In 2010, Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Eddie Holland were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Diana Ross emphasized in her speech that their music together was born out of love.

Lamont Dozier was married twice and had six children. As his son Lamont Dozier Jr. announced on August 9, Lamont Dozier died a day earlier at the age of 81.