Legendary Motown songwriter and producer Lamont Dozier died on August 9th of undisclosed causes according to The New York Times. Dozier and brothers Eddie and Brian Holland formed Motown's legendary songwriting and production team Holland-Dozier-Holland, collaborated on nearly 300 songs, and together created some of the most iconic and beloved music of the 20th century. They were by far the most prolific and successful songwriter/producers to come out of Motown.
Among their most memorable songs are the Four Tops' Top Ten hits “Standing In The Shadows Of Love,” “Bernadette,” “It's The Same Old Song,” and their Number Ones “I Can't Help Myself” and “Reach Out (I'll Be There), Marvin Gaye's “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You),” along with Martha & the Vandellas' “Nowhere To Run,” “Heatwave” and “Jimmy Mack.”
However, they are best known for their string of Number Ones with the Supremes, including “Where Did Our Love Go,” “Baby Love,” “Stop! In The Name Of Love,” “Come See About Me,” “Back In My Arms Again,” and “I Hear A Symphony.”
When we last caught up with Lamont Dozier, he told us that the greatest part of songwriting is the initial buzz from coming up with a new idea: “Y'know, back in the '60s and '70s, the creation part of it, I think was the good thing. When you can create something from nothing. Y'know, starting with a new melody, a new approach to a song, or a new idea for the conflicts between man and woman which is always what we've written about.”
We asked Lamont Dozier what he believed the secret was to being a successful songwriter: “A songwriter has to be one who has some kind of feeling for what the public wants to hear and feel, and have a feeling for what goes on around them in the media and that type of thing. The top people that can communicate the public's feelings in song win awards.”
Lamont Dozier told us that he and the Holland brothers took great pains to make their compositions great records — as well as timeless songs: “If I'm there working on 'I Hear A Symphony' or Brian is working on 'Stop! In The Name Of Love' — whatever it is, we would get together and figure out where do we go from one point to the other, so that the song sounds different, that it's not trite musically, production-wise. And have something that would say something that would give a person a lift.”
Lamont Dozier says that Holland-Dozier-Holland always thrived on the creative push and pull within their partnership: “You have to have some type of tension. You can't all be on the same page at the time, because it'll just all be one dull thing. It's got to be some type of adversity as far as the creativeness is concerned. At the same time, when a great idea or that moment that it comes and it's so strong that it jumps out at you and you feel those goosebumps; then we all feel the same. That's the time that we become one.”
He was especially proud of the fact that Holland-Dozier-Holland was able to take people minds off the atrocities of the 1960's: “The '60s were a very terrible time. I think we brought some balance; I like to think we brought some balance to the emotions that people were feelin'. We constantly wrote about love, and being happy, dance music, things like 'Mickey's Monkey' — that had nothin' to do with the times, but sort of an escape for the people with all of these changes that were taking place. We tried to keep people focused on 'Hey there's a better life, there's good things in life to look forward to' and I like to think we were optimistic in our music.”
Not too long ago Lamont Dozier admitted to us that he believes James Taylor's 1975 cover of “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)” actually outdid Marvin Gaye's original version: “That's my favorite. What he did to 'How Sweet It Is,' I mean he took that song and made it his own, y'know? He just stole it from Marvin.”
Lamont Dozier was born on June 16th, 1941, in Detroit, Michigan. He made his recording debut with the Romeos in the mid-1950's and recorded solo as Lamont Anthony in the early-60's for Anna Records, which was owned by the sister of Motown founder Berry Gordy Jr.
Dozier and the Holland brothers left Motown in 1968 and formed own company called Invictus and Hot Wax Records, which continued the trio's success with such acts as the Honey Cone, Freda Payne, and Chairmen Of The Board.
He went on to record his first semi-successful solo single in 1972, “Why Can't We Be Lovers” and recorded biggest solo single, “Trying To Hold On To My Woman,” in 1973 for ABC Records.
Holland-Dozier-Holland were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990. They most recently reunited to write the score for the musical adaptation to The First Wives Club.
Lamont Dozer's last hit was back in 1989, when he collaborated with Phil Collins on the chart-topping, “Two Hearts.”