Lamont Dozier, Motown hitmaker for the Supremes and more, died at 81

Lamont Dozier, Motown hitmaker for the Supremes and more, died at 81

“Rest in Heaven’s Peace Dad,” Lamont Dozier Jr. wrote in a post, along with a photo of himself with his dad.

The Detroit-born musician and songwriter was a star for Motown Records. Berry Gordy, the label’s founder, paid tribute to Dozier in a statement to CNN.

“Lamont was a good friend and will be missed by the entire Motown family. My sincere condolences go out to his family and friends,” Gordy said.

Dozier was a member of the songwriting trio Holland-Dozier-Holland along with brothers Brian and Edward Holland. Together they wrote some of the biggest hits of the 1960s and ’70s, including the Four Tops’ “Reach Out I’ll Be There,” “Stop! Love,” Marvin Gaye’s “How Sweet It Is” and “Heat Wave” by Martha and the Vandellas.

“If Holland, Dozier and Holland’s work had begun and ended with these five songs, their words and melodies would still ring out today,” wrote musician and author Andrew Schwartz in 1990, prior to the group’s induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. “But these acclaimed classics are just the tip of a creative pinnacle that began to take shape three decades ago.” However, it took the trio some time to gain a foothold on the Detroit music scene. In 1963, Gordy paired Dozier and his colleagues with Diana Ross and the Supremes when neither group had released a star hit — and the rest is history. Dozier was an unconventional songwriter: in a 2004 interview with Fresh Air, he explained that he would start at the piano alongside Eddie Holland and the two would start writing a song based on an “idea or a certain feeling “ based. Some of their catchiest lyrics were inspired by phrases they’ve heard in life — “Sugar Pie Honey Bunch,” anyone? — and of course her own romantic escapades, he said. “I don’t read music and I can’t write it,” he told the Detroit Free Press in 2019’s Feeling as I sat down at the piano.” Speaking to Songwriter Universe in 2005, Dozier fondly recalled his time at Motown Records as ” Great”.

“During that time, everything we touched seemed to go straight into the top 10,” he said. “It was like we stumbled onto the best door on ‘The Price Is Right’ where the prices just kept coming and going! The hits went on and on. Many of our songs have become American Songbook Favorites. “

But it wasn’t perfect, Dozier told the Free Press in 2019: “There were a lot of things going on behind the scenes that don’t get written about – the moments where there was sometimes jealousy and envy that were so overlooked, your ego was yours.” Talent or your goal, which is to write a hit, doesn’t get in the way.”

The trio left Motown after falling out with Gordy over royalties and formed their own labels Invictus and Hot Wax, where artists like Chairmen of the Board and Laura Lee recorded. In 1973 he explored a solo career as a singer-songwriter and over the following decade collaborated with artists such as Phil Collins, with whom he wrote and produced the Oscar-nominated song “Two Hearts”.

In 1990, more than 25 years after he first teamed up with the Supremes to write his greatest hits, Dozier was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame along with the Holland brothers. He recounted those victories and others – plus some setbacks – in a 2019 memoir entitled How Sweet It Is: A Songwriter’s Reflections on Music, Motown and the Mystery of the Muse.

In his memoir, he outlines 19 guiding principles for great songwriting. As a final principle, he encouraged readers to accept that “there are no bad days”—only “learning days.”

“There is a way to grow and improve,” he wrote. “To reach your full potential, you must approach writing and life with humble reverence.”