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Lamont Dozier is dead: Songwriter of numerous Motown classics died at 81

His name has gone down in pop history as the middle of a triad: Holland-Dozier-Holland, this songwriting team was in the 1960s Part of the recipe for success with which the Detroit record label Motown Records landed hit after hit. Along with brothers Eddie and Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier was involved in twelve number one hits on the US singles chart, sung by the Supremes and the Four Tops.

Motown was known at the time for its quasi-industrial production system for popular songs, for which label boss Berry Gordy was inspired by the assembly lines of automobile companies, those produced in Detroit. But within the system with its instances of quality control, the creative people were given a great deal of freedom, as Dozier once said: “If we had an idea, we could always go into the studio and do whatever we wanted.”

Lamont Dozier, 851 born in Detroit, had initially tried himself as a performer , under the name Lamont Anthony and also as part of a singing group called Romeos. But Gordy saw Dozier more in a circle of songwriters and producers that he gathered around his fresh label. The Holland brothers didn’t have the charisma to be at the front of the stage either, so 1962 the songwriting team Holland-Dozier-Holland, called »HDH« internally at Motown.

HDH wrote the first hits for the singer Martha Reeves and her Vandellas; »Heat Wave« was 1963 the first number one hit on the R&B charts. However, Motown’s aim was to overcome the boundaries of the US radio market, which was still highly segregated at the time, and also to reach the predominantly white pop audience.

Holland-Dozier- Holland did this most notably with songs they wrote for the Diana Ross-led vocal trio The Supremes: “Where Did Our Love Go” was 1964 the first pop number one for the Supremes and Motown, who have nine more HDH Supreme songs followed, including classics that are still popular today, such as »Baby Love«, »Stop! In the Name of Love, You Can’t Hurry Love, or You Keep Me Hangin’ On.

Holland-Dozier-Holland with the Supremes in front of Motown HQ in Detroit

Photo Credit: Hugh Grannum / ZUMA Wire / IMAGO

Yet in the Motown system, songwriters were not exclusively assigned to individual acts. Holland-Dozier-Holland wrote a number of emotionally dramatic songs for the male vocal group The Four Tops, including “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)”, “It’s the Same Old Song” and “Reach Out, I ‘ll Be There’. Other examples of classic HDH hits from Motown’s heyday include “Nowhere to Run” (Martha & the Vandellas) and “This Old Heart of Mine (Is Weak for You)” (The Isley Brothers).

At the end of the 1960s, Holland-Dozier-Holland demanded a greater financial stake in the Motown successes. Label boss Berry Gordy, who was involved with plans to move to Los Angeles, found out about the cracks in the system too late and court cases ensued. While these were pending, HDH temporarily released their compositions under a pseudonym, “Edyth Wayne.” Hits on her own Invictus label have included Chairmen of the Board’s “Give Me Just a Little More Time” and Freda Payne’s “Band of Gold.”

Laurent Dozier mit den Holland-Brüdern, 2015

Laurent Dozier mit den Holland-Brüdern, 2015

Laurent Dozier with the Holland brothers, 1973

Photo: Michael Nelson / picture alliance / dpa

Laurent Dozier mit den Holland-Brüdern, 2015

1973 Lamont Dozier left the team with the Holland brothers and was now aiming for a solo kart start as an artist. However, his songs only reached low chart positions, if at all. Critics were bothered by Dozier’s rather thin singing voice. In any case, Lamont Dozier was not lacking in self-confidence – one of his solo albums is entitled »Black Bach«.

After that, in the 1980s, Phil Collins performed a cover version of the old HDH hit “You Can’t Hurry Love,” Collins co-wrote the songs “Two Hearts” and “Loco in Acapulco” with Lamont Dozier for the soundtrack to the film “Buster.” British singer Alison Moyet also commissioned a song from Dozier to launch her solo career, »Invisible«. 2000 Dozier was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame along with the Holland brothers.

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On Tuesday there was a son of the musician, Lamont Dozier Jr announced his father’s death on Facebook. Lamont Dozier became 72 years old, a cause of death was not initially known. However, companions wrote on social media that Dozier had been ill for a long time.

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