NEW YORK (AP) — Barrett Robust, considered one of Motown’s founding artists and most gifted songwriters who sang lead on the corporate’s breakthrough single “Cash (That’s What I Need)” and later collaborated with Norman Whitfield on such classics as “I Heard It By way of the Grapevine,” “Warfare” and “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone,” has died. He was 81.
His demise was introduced Sunday on social media by the Motown Museum, which didn’t instantly present additional particulars.
“Barrett was not solely an amazing singer and piano participant, however he, alongside along with his writing associate Norman Whitfield, created an unbelievable physique of labor,” Motown founder Berry Gordy mentioned in an announcement.
Robust had but to show 20 when he agreed to let his buddy Gordy, within the early days of constructing a recording empire in Detroit, handle him and launch his music. Inside a yr, he was part of historical past because the piano participant and vocalist for “Cash,” a million-seller launched early in 1960 and Motown’s first main hit. Robust by no means once more approached the success of “Cash” on his personal, and a long time later fought for acknowledgement that he helped write it. However, with Whitfield, he shaped a productive and eclectic songwriting staff.
Whereas Gordy’s “Sound of Younger America” was criticized for being too slick and repetitive, the Whitfield-Robust staff turned out hard-hitting and topical works, together with such timeless ballads as “I Want It Would Rain” and “Simply My Creativeness (Working Away with Me).” With “I Heard it By way of the Grapevine,” they supplied an up-tempo, call-and-response hit for Gladys Knight and the Pips and a darkish, hypnotic ballad for Marvin Gaye, his 1968 model considered one of Motown’s all-time sellers.
As Motown grew to become extra politically aware late within the decade, Barrett-Whitfield turned out “Cloud 9” and “Psychedelic Shack” for the Temptations and for Edwin Starr the protest anthem “Warfare” and its extensively quoted chorus, “Warfare! What’s it good for? Completely … nothing!”
“With ‘Warfare,’ I had a cousin who was a paratrooper that obtained harm fairly dangerous in Vietnam,” Robust informed LA Weekly in 1999. “I additionally knew a man who used to sing with (Motown songwriter) Lamont Dozier that obtained hit by shrapnel and was crippled for all times. You discuss this stuff together with your households while you’re sitting at house, and it conjures up you to say one thing about it.”
Whitfield-Robust’s different hits, principally for the Temptations, included “I Can’t Get Subsequent to You,” “That’s the Means Love Is” and the Grammy-winning chart-topper “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” (Generally spelled “Papa Was a Rolling Stone”). Artists overlaying their songs ranged from the Rolling Stones (“Simply My Creativeness”) and Aretha Franklin (“I Want It Would Rain”) to Bruce Springsteen (“Warfare”) and Al Inexperienced (“I Can’t Get Subsequent to You”).
Robust spent a part of the Sixties recording for different labels, left Motown once more within the early Seventies and made a handful of solo albums, together with “Stronghold” and “Love is You.” In 2004, he was voted into the Songwriters Corridor of Fame, which cited him as “a pivotal determine in Motown’s childhood.”
Whitfield died in 2008.
The music of Robust and different Motown writers was later featured within the Broadway hit “Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Occasions of the Temptations.”
Robust was born in West Level, Mississippi and moved to Detroit a couple of years later. He was a self-taught musician who realized piano with no need classes and, along with his sisters, shaped a neighborhood gospel group, the Robust Singers. In his teenagers, he obtained to know such artists as Franklin, Smokey Robinson and Gordy, who was impressed along with his writing and piano taking part in. “Cash,” with its opening shout, “The perfect issues in life are free/However you may give them to the birds and bees,” would, paradoxically, result in a struggle — over cash.
Robust was initially listed among the many writers and he usually spoke of arising with the pounding piano riff whereas jamming on Ray Charles’ “What’d I Say” within the studio. However solely a long time later would he study that Motown had since eliminated his title from the credit, costing him royalties for a well-liked customary lined by the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and plenty of others and a memento on John Lennon’s house jukebox. Robust’s authorized argument was weakened as a result of he had taken so lengthy to ask for his title to be reinstated. (Gordy is likely one of the tune’s credited writers, and his attorneys contended Robust’s title solely appeared due to a clerical error).
“Songs outlive folks,” Robust informed The New York Occasions in 2013. “The actual motive Motown labored was the publishing. The data had been only a automobile to get the songs on the market to the general public. The actual cash is within the publishing, and in case you have publishing, then dangle on to it. That’s what it’s all about. If you happen to give it away, you’re giving freely your life, your legacy. When you’re gone, these songs will nonetheless be taking part in.”