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Lamont Dozier, Motown Songwriting Legend, Dead at 81

Lamont Dozier. Photo: John M. Heller/Getty Images

Lamont Dozier, one-third of the mainstay Motown writing team Holland-Dozier-Holland, has died, his son announced on Instagram on August 9. He was 81. Dozier co-wrote and -produced over a dozen No. 1 hits, largely with his partners Brian and Eddie Holland, becoming key architects of the Motown sound and today’s R&B. (Dozier and Brian worked on music, while Eddie did lyrics.) With the trio, Dozier began working at Motown Records in 1962 and had early success with Martha and the Vandellas, who hit No. 1 on the Billboard R&B chart and No. 4 on the Pop chart with “Heat Wave” the next year. By 1964, Holland-Dozier-Holland had begun a fruitful collaboration with the Supremes, writing the group’s first ten No. 1 Pop hits: “Where Did Our Love Go,” “Baby Love,” “Come See About Me,” “Stop! In the Name of Love,” “Back in My Arms Again,” “I Hear a Symphony,” “You Can’t Hurry Love,” “You Keep Me Hangin’ On,” “Love Is Here and Now You’re Gone,” and “The Happening.” Dozier and his partners also worked with other major Motown acts including Marvin Gaye (“How Sweet It Is [To Be Loved By You]”), the Four Tops (“Reach Out I’ll Be There”), and the Isley Brothers (“This Old Heart of Mine [Is Weak for You]”).

“Lamont was a brilliant arranger and producer who balanced the talents of the great Eddie and Brian Holland, helping to pull it all together,” Motown founder Berry Gordy said in a statement to Billboard. “Lamont was a good friend and will be missed by the entire Motown Family. My sincere condolences to his family and friends.”

The trio left Motown in 1968 and began working on their own labels, Invictus and Hot Wax, including writing “Give Me Just a Little More Time” for Chairmen of the Board. Around their departure, Dozier began working as a performer, and he left the writing trio in 1973. As a singer-songwriter, he had multiple songs hit the top five of the R&B chart, including “Trying to Be My Woman,” which crossed over to No. 15 on Pop. Yet Dozier’s career hadn’t ended — the songwriter earned another No. 1 in 1989 for co-writing “Two Hearts” with Phil Collins for the film Buster. In 1990, Dozier was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Holland-Dozier-Holland. He also spent his late career teaching music at the University of Southern California and chairing the board of the National Academy of Songwriters. Below, tributes to the life and career of Lamont Dozier from Diana Ross, Diane Warren, Carole King, and more.

Lamont Dozier, Motown Songwriting Legend, Dead at 81