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Songwriter Lamont Dozier, who co-wrote hits for the Supremes and Four Tops, has died

Dozier died at 81. As part of the songwriting team Holland-Dozier-Holland, he co-wrote dozens of hits, including "Baby Love," "Heat Wave" and "Reflections," helping to define the Motown sound.

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Songwriter Lamont Dozier in 2013. He co-wrote songs that helped define the Motown sound. He died Monday at 81.
Songwriter Lamont Dozier in 2013. He co-wrote songs that helped define the Motown sound. He died Monday at 81. Chelsea Lauren | Getty Images for BMI
Updated August 9, 2022 at 11:36 AM ET

Songwriter Lamont Dozier has died at age 81. Along with Brian and Eddie Holland, Dozier co-wrote dozens hits for The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, The Four Tops and others. His death was announced by his son on Instagram.

"Heat Wave," "How Sweet It Is," "Stop In The Name of Love," "You Keep Me Hangin' On," "Nowhere To Run," "Bernadette"... Holland-Dozier-Holland were talented, prolific songwriters who were instrumental in making Motown "the home of Hitsville, U.S.A."

His family released a statement saying the "devoted father and legendary songwriter, producer and recording artist, died peacefully in his home on Monday, August 8. ... We love him dearly and will miss him always."

Dozier grew up in Detroit. In 2004, he told NPR it was an elementary school teacher who liked his writing and encouraged him to keep at it. "She thought it was very astute of me to have such a feel for words and stuff," Dozier said, "So I started to put these words to music by the time I was, like, 12 or 13."

By the time he was 15, Dozier had his own doo-wop group called The Romeos.

In the 1960s, the Motor City's most talented artists soon found their way to Berry Gordy's Motown. Gordy modeled his record label after a Ford assembly line with Holland-Dozier-Holland quickly becoming one of its finest song designers.

(From left) songwriters Eddie Holland, Lamont Dozier, and Brian Holland pose at their Hollywood Walk of Fame Star ceremony in 2015.
(From left) songwriters Eddie Holland, Lamont Dozier, and Brian Holland pose at their Hollywood Walk of Fame Star ceremony in 2015. Frederic J. Brown | AFP via Getty Images

Earlier this year the Library of Congress named Holland-Dozier-Holland's "Reach Out, I'll Be There," recorded by The Four Tops in 1966, to its National Recording Registry.

Lamont Dozier "wanted to write 'a journey of emotions with sustained tension, like a bolero,'" according to The Library of Congress. "To achieve that, he 'alternated the keys, from a minor, Russian feel in the verse to a major, gospel feel in the chorus.' "

Dozier parted ways with the Holland brothers in the early 1970s but his creative output continued over the next several decades. He released a solo album and penned songs for Alison Moyet, Simply Red and Phil Collins.

In 2019, Dozier's memoir How Sweet It Is: A Songwriter's Reflections on Music, Motown and the Mystery of the Muse was published.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Transcript :

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

Songwriter Lamont Dozier has died. Along with Brian and Eddie Holland, Dozier helped define the Motown sound with dozens of hits like "Stop! In The Name of Love" and "Heat Wave." NPR's Elizabeth Blair has this appreciation.

ELIZABETH BLAIR, BYLINE: Berry Gordy structured Motown like a Ford assembly line. One of its most prized song designers was Holland-Dozier-Holland. The trio wrote songs for The Four Tops...

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BABY I NEED YOUR LOVING")

THE FOUR TOPS: (Singing) Baby, I need your loving. Baby, I need your loving.

BLAIR: ...Marvin Gaye...

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CAN I GET A WITNESS")

MARVIN GAYE: (Singing) Can I get a witness? Can I get a witness? Can I get a witness?

BLAIR: ...And The Supremes.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YOU KEEP ME HANGIN' ON")

THE SUPREMES: (Singing) Set me free. Why don't you, babe? Get out my life. Why don't you, babe?

BLAIR: Lamont Dozier grew up in Detroit. He sang in church, and he liked to write. In 2004, he told NPR it was an elementary school teacher who encouraged him to keep at it.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

LAMONT DOZIER: She thought it was very astute of me to have such a feel for words and stuff. So I started to put these words to music by the time I was, like, 12 or 13.

BLAIR: By the time Dozier was 15, he was singing in his own doo-wop group. After leaving Motown, he recorded as a solo artist.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FISH AIN'T BITIN'")

DOZIER: (Singing) I'm out here fighting, hungry.

KEN KNOX: The stories, his voice and the arrangements - there's none better, I think.

BLAIR: Ken Knox is singer with Chairmen of the Board, another group that Holland-Dozier-Holland wrote songs for and produced.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GIVE ME JUST A LITTLE MORE TIME")

CHAIRMEN OF THE BOARD: (Singing) Give me just a little more time. Give me just a little more time. And my love with surely grow. Give me just a little more time.

KNOX: Eargasm (ph) all the way. Those three guys writing were, like - they're the kings.

BLAIR: Holland-Dozier-Holland was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and won the Johnny Mercer Lifetime Achievement Award. Lamont Dozier eventually parted ways with the Holland Brothers. He went on to write songs for other artists, including Phil Collins, with whom he won a Grammy Award in 1988. Elizabeth Blair, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HEAT WAVE")

LINDA RONSTADT: (Singing) Whenever I'm with him, something inside starts to burning, and I'm filled with desire. Could it be a devil in me, or is this the way love's supposed to be? It's like a heat wave burning in my heart - heat wave. I can't keep from crying - heat wave. It's tearing me apart. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.