Saturday, October 18, 2008

Norman Whitfield (1941 - 2008)

Norman Whitfield, one of the most prolific composer/arrangers of Motown Records has succumbed to diabetes. Whitfield produced songs for such top Motown acts as Gladys Knight & The Pips, Rare Earth, The Four Tops, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, Marvin Gaye and The Supremes, but he had his greatest success with The Temptations, who had 38 top forty hits between 1964 and 1991, Whitfield produced 26 of the 38, which included gems like "Ain't Too Proud To Beg", "I Can't Get Next To You", "Just My Imagination", "Papa Was A Rolling Stone" "(I Know)I'm Losing You" and "I Wish It Would Rain". Whitfield earned the reputation of being a hard worker, driven to the point of perfection. This trait gave him quite a few enemies because of the hours spent in the studio recording artists. He was the type of person who would not take no for an answer if he felt he was right. Motown president Berry Gordy rejected the tune "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" by several artists. It appeared as if each time Gordy rejected it Whitfield would do it again with a different artist. Finally Gordy did accept a version by Gladys Knight & The Pips. This recording became the biggest Motown hit ever at that time. Seeing the success of the Gladys Knight & Pips version of the song Berry Gordy then approved the Marvin Gaye version, which even surpassed the one by Gladys Knight & The Pips to become Motown's all-time best seller.
When Whitfield left Motown he composed songs for movies like "Which Way Is Up?
the Richard Pryor film that had Stargard perform the Whitfield penned title song. He had even greater success with Rose Royce's "Car Wash" from the film of the same name. The song reached #1 on Billboard in 1977. Whitfield, like Ronald Isley and Dionne Warwick was a among a cadre of African-American artists who are constantly tormented by Internal Revenue Service. Whitfield left the music scene completely in
2000 primarily due to health concerns.

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