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09 August 2022

Lamont Dozier, Songwriting Great, Dies at 81

Lamont Dozier
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Lamont Dozier, a songwriting great who was behind countless classics to Motown in the 1960s with the production team Holland-Dozier-Holland, has died, his son Lamont Dozier Jr has confirmed on social media. No cause of death was given. Dozier was 81.

Born in Detroit in 1941, Dozier made his first record aged 15 with a group called The Romeos. The following year, Motown boss Berry Gordy approached him, eventually bringing him in-house as a hitmaker.

Dozier formed a production team with Brian and Eddie Holland. “It was blood, sweat and tears,” he told The Guardian in 2015. “We pounded on the piano and put our ideas down on a little recorder and just worked and worked them out until we came up with things.” Their sensibility, he added, yielded “quite dark lyrics”—mostly written by Eddie Holland—“and uplifting, cheerful music, and that became our style: making lemonade out of lemons.”

Holland-Dozier-Holland scored hits for Martha & The Vandellas, The Miracles, and Marvin Gaye, before topping the US charts for the first time with The Supremes’ pop classic Where Did Our Love Go in 1964. As well as writing, composing, and producing nine more US No 1 hits for the Supremes — including Baby Love, Stop! In the Name of Love, You Can’t Hurry Love, and You Keep Me Hangin’ On — Holland-Dozier-Holland were behind The Four Top’s evergreen hit Reach Out I’ll Be There and their other No 1 single, I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch).

After producing more than 200 songs for the label, a royalty dispute led the production trio to slow its work rate and, in the late ’60s, to leave Motown and form two labels, Invictus and Hot Wax. Dozier focused on writing solo, with hits including a 70s R&B smash in Going Back to My Roots, popularized by disco group Odyssey and later adopted by innumerable disco revivalist DJs. Going into the 80s, Dozier continued to write songs for pop stars such as Alison Moyet (Invisible) and Phil Collins (the Grammy and Golden Globe–winning US No 1 single Two Hearts).

Holland-Dozier-Holland were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1988 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame two years later.

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