Legendary Motown Songwriter Lamont Dozier Dies at 81

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Lamont Dozier, one-third of the legenday “Holland-Dozier-Holland” songwriting and production trio who wrote many of Motown Records’ biggest hits for the Supremes, the Four Tops, Marvin Gaye, Martha and the Vandellas and others, has died at the age of 81. The news was confirmed by his son Lamont Dozier Jr.; no cause of death has been announced.

His family issued the following statement: “Lamont Dozier, devoted father and legendary songwriter, producer and recording artist, died peacefully in his home on Monday, August 8. He was preceded in death by his wife of 40 years, Barbara Ullman Dozier and is survived by his children and two grandchildren. We love him dearly and will miss him always.”

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The trio are a definitive example of people whose songs are much better known than they are; classics written and produced by Dozier with siblings Brian and Eddie Holland read like a greatest-hits of Motown’s early years. They include “Where Did Our Love Go,” “Baby I Need Your Loving,” “Stop! in the Name of Love,” “How Sweet It Is (to Be Loved by You),” “Baby Love,” “Reach Out I’ll Be There,” “You Keep Me Hanging On” and many others. They racked up 10 of the Supremes’ 12 No. 1 singles in the U.S. and were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1988 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990. It is difficult to imagine the sound of the 1960s — and everything that followed, for that matter — without them.

“It all starts with personalities, with people digging each other, as they used to say,” Dozier told Variety in 2015 when the trio received their star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. “There’s something true about working with the same people, even if it’s for a short time. Usually, the ones that are successful, they have a 10-year span, and then everybody tends to want to do their own thing. Very few stay together — I guess the Stones, and a few others. But eventually, after 10 years, everyone wants to do something different.”

While the group had a falling out with Motown founder Berry Gordy, they continued to have hits into the early 1970s with Freda Payne and Dionne Warwick and others, although not at their prior level of success, and went their separate ways.

Born in Detroit in 1941, Dozier struggled early in his career but found almost immediate success after uniting with the Holland brothers and beginning work at Motown in 1962. The following year they scored three hits for Martha and the Vandellas, “Come and Get These Memories,” “Heatwave” and “Quicksand,” and were off and running. The trio’s hits continued unabated throughout the decade as Motown thrived, but in 1968 parted ways with the company and, due to legal complications, worked under pseudonyms for a time.

The group’s hits continued with songs like Freda Payne’s hit “Band of Gold” and their own Invictus and Hot Wax labels, and Dozier also worked as a solo artist for a number of years. Separate from the Holland brothers, his song “Going Back to My Roots” was a hit in 1981 when covered by the group Odyssey. Later, Dozier worked with longtime fan Phil Collins on the American chart-topper “Two Hearts” and followed by working with other artists who grew up on Motown and reflected his hits in their sound, including British singer Alison Moyet and group Simply Red.

Said current Motown chairman and CEO Ethiopia Habtemariam: “The world has lost an incredible force in music and I am heartbroken over this loss. Lamont Dozier was one of the early architects of the Motown sound and his contributions through his artistry and songwriting continues to inspire generations beyond measure. Lamont was an incredibly kind and loving person and I’m forever grateful for the friendship and support from the Dozier family over the years. Motown will continue to honor his legacy as we extend our deepest condolences to the Dozier family.”

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