There’s a great Motown sound that owes a lot to Norman Whitfield, Grammy-winning songwriter/producer/arranger for Motown and for his own label. The hits are many, including I Heard It Though The Grapevine, Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone, and Ain’t Too Proud To Beg (all with co-writers).
The NY Times has an obit on Mr. Whitfield, but I’ll take this quote from an interview he gave and provide it hear for its sheer bravado and insight into what you need to do sometimes to make a song:
In an interview with David Ritz for “Divided Soul: The Life of Marvin Gaye” (Da Capo, 1991), Mr. Whitfield recalled the deep influence of the new, hard-driving funk of Sly Stone, and how he tried to bring something of Mr. Stone’s sound to his work at Motown.
“My thing was to out-Sly Sly Stone,” Mr. Whitfield said. “Sly was definitely sly, and his sound was new, his grooves were incredible, he borrowed a lot from rock. He caught the psychedelic thing. He was bad. I could match him though, rhythm for rhythm, horn for horn.”
It would be something else to “match” Norman Whitfield… time to feel a little soul now… R.I.P. and may the Muse be with you…