Songwriter and producer Norman Whitfield – the man who took the Motown Sound beyond sweet soul and into psychedelic funk – died yesterday in Los Angeles. He was 67 and had suffered with diabetes.
Whitfield co-wrote such Motown classics as “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg,” “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone,” “War” and “Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me).”
Influenced by the early music of Funkadelic, he changed up the style of the Temptations in 1968, and he scored gold records with “Cloud Nine,” “Psychedelic Shack” and “Ball of Confusion.”
After his Motown years, Norman Whitfield produced a string of R&B hits for Rose Royce.
To honor Mr. Whitfield, I’m streaming a few cover versions of hit songs he wrote with his longtime collaborator, Barrett Strong. (Roger Penzabene also co-wrote “I Wish It Would Rain.”) Click the song titles below to listen.
1. “I Wish It Would Rain” – Bobby Womack
2. “Smiling Faces Sometimes” – Joan Osborne & Isaac Hayes
3. “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” – Joe Cocker
4. “I Can’t Get Next to You” – Al Green