Rest in Peace – Norman Whitfield Motown’s Psychedelic Soul Producer

By | Sep 18, 2008

Norman Whitfield, a Motown producer and composer, died on September 16, 2008. He will always be remembered as one of the principal creators of psychedelic soul.

Some of Whitfield’s hit songs were I Heard It through the Grapevine, Ain’t Too Proud to Beg, Cloud Nine, War, Papa Was a Rolling Stone, Smiling Faces Sometimes and Car Wash. Many of his hits were written with lyrical collaborator Barrett Strong. In 2004 he and Strong were inducted to the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame.

Whitfield was born on May 12, 1940 in Harlem. He moved to Detroit with his family in his late teens. At 19 he hung around Motown’s Hitsville U.S.A. offices looking for a job finally winning one in their quality control department.

He soon became one of the songwriters with one of his first big hits being Ain’t to Proud to Beg by the Temptations.

In 1967 Gladys Knight and the Pips recorded and released the Whitfield/Strong penned song I Heard it Through the Grapevine. It became Motown’s best-selling single to that point. A year later Marvin Gaye released his version which became an even bigger seller and was Motown’s biggest single of the 1960’s.

Soon along with the Temptations they began the Psychedelic Soul Period. He produced the Temptations from this point until he left Motown in 1973. During this period he wrote along with Barrett Strong the best selling protest song, War. “War, What is it Good For? Absolutely nothing.” While Norman Whitfield has left us, his songs will live forever.


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