(CNN) — Barrett Strong, the voice and songwriter behind Motown Records’ first hit, has died, according to a post from The Motown Museum.
He was 81.
“It is with great sadness that we share the passing of legendary @classicmotown singer and songwriter Barrett Strong. The voice behind @motownrecords’ first hit, the iconic “Money (That’s What I Want),” the Museum’s post began.
The tribute explained the history behind Strong’s “Money.”
“After overhearing an in-studio conversation between Mr. Gordy and Motown songwriter Janie Bradford—Strong started playing the piano and, within moments, ‘Money (That’s What I Want)’ was created. The song eventually reached #2 on the U.S. R&B charts, #23 on the @billboard Hot 100 and ultimately #288 on @rollingstone’s ‘The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time,’” the caption read.
Strong, along with Motown producer Norman Whitfield, also created some of the label’s other top songs, including “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” “Wherever I Lay My Hat (That’s My Home),” “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone,” and 1971’s “Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me).”
He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2004.
Strong was born in West Point, Mississippi before moving to Detroit, the home of the Motown label. He would tour with his siblings, before eventually catching the eye of singer Jackie Wilson, who introduced him to Berry Gordy.
Gordy, the record label founder who signed Strong in 1959, said in a statement to CNN, “I am saddened to hear of the passing of Barrett Strong, one of my earliest artists, and the man who sang my first big hit… Barrett was not only a great singer and piano player, but he, along with his writing partner Norman Whitfield, created an incredible body of work, primarily with the Temptations. Their hit songs were revolutionary in sound and captured the spirit of the times … Barrett is an original member of the Motown Family and will be missed by all of us.”
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