NEW YORK, NY.-
Lamont Dozier, the prolific songwriter and producer who was crucial to the success of Motown Records as one-third of the Holland-Dozier-Holland team, died Monday in Arizona. He was 81.
Robin Terry, the chair and chief executive of the Motown Museum in Detroit, confirmed the death but did not specify a cause.
In collaboration with the brothers Brian and Eddie Holland, Dozier wrote songs for dozens of musical acts, but the trio worked most often with Martha and the Vandellas (Heat Wave, Jimmy Mack), the Four Tops (Bernadette, I Cant Help Myself) and especially the Supremes (You Cant Hurry Love, Baby Love). Between 1963 and 1972, the Holland-Dozier-Holland team was responsible for more than 80 singles that hit the Top 40 of the pop or R&B charts, including 15 songs that reached No. 1. It was as if we were playing the lottery and winning every time, Dozier wrote in his autobiography, How Sweet It Is (2019, written with Scott B. Bomar).
Lamont Herbert Dozier was born June 16, 1941, in Detroit, the oldest of five children of Willie Lee and Ethel Jeannette (Waters) Dozier.
As a high school student, Dozier wrote songs and formed the Romeos, an interracial doo-wop group. When the Romeos song Fine Fine Baby was released by Atco Records, a subsidiary of Atlantic, in 1957, Dozier dropped out of high school at 16.
After the Romeos broke up, Dozier auditioned for Anna Records, a new label founded by Billy Davis and the sisters Anna and Gwen Gordy. He was slotted into a group called the Voice Masters and hired as a custodian. In 1961, billed as Lamont Anthony, he released his first solo single, Lets Talk It Over but he preferred the flip side, Popeye, a song he wrote. Popeye, which featured a young Marvin Gaye on drums, became a regional hit until it was squelched by King Features, owners of the cartoon and comic-strip character Popeye.
After Anna Records folded in 1961, Dozier received a phone call from Berry Gordy Jr., brother of Anna and Gwen, offering him a job as a songwriter at his new label, Motown, with a salary of $25 a week as an advance against royalties. Dozier began collaborating with the young songwriter Brian Holland.
They were soon joined by Brians older brother, Eddie, who specialized in lyrics, and began writing songs together.
In his memoir, Dozier summed it up: Brian was all music, Eddie was all lyrics, and I was the idea man who bridged both.
Dozier and the Holland brothers left Motown in 1967, at the peak of their success, in a dispute over money and ownership, and started two labels of their own, Invictus and Hot Wax. Their biggest hit was Freda Paynes Band of Gold, a Top 10 hit in 1970.
Dozier wrote some more hits with the Hollands (many credited to the collective pseudonym Edythe Wayne because of ongoing legal disputes with Motown) and struck out on his own in 1973, resuming his singing career.
He released a dozen solo albums, but without achieving stardom as a singer. He had the most chart success in 1974, most notably with the song Trying to Hold On to My Woman, which reached the Top 20. Fish Aint Bitin, with lyrics urging Richard Nixon to resign, became a minor hit when his label publicized a letter it had received from the White House asking it to stop promoting the song.
Dozier had greater success collaborating with other artists in the 1980s, writing songs with Eric Clapton, Simply Red frontman Mick Hucknall and Phil Collins, who hit No. 1 in 1989 with the Dozier-Collins song Two Hearts.
Information on survivors was not immediately available.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times