black and white Barrett Strong
Barrett Strong (Motown Museum photo)

Acclaimed Motown songwriter Barrett Strong is returning home to Detroit. 

The native Detroiter, who had moved to California in his later years, died Jan. 29 at the age of 81. 

Strong’s funeral will be held March 4 at 11 a.m. at Greater Grace Temple, 23500 W. Seven Mile Road, according to a news release from his family. Strong will then be buried at Woodlawn Cemetery. 

Related: Famed Motown songwriter Barrett Strong was prolific artist, father figure

Flowers and expressions of sympathy can be sent on March 3 to O.H. Pye III Funeral Home, 17600 Plymouth Road. 

Strong was a famed songwriter behind some of Motown’s biggest hits in the 1960s and early 70s. He was one of the first artists to sign to Motown Records when the company formed in 1959. The following year, his song, “Money (That’s What I Want),” became the first big hit for Motown, selling a million copies, according to the Associated Press. 

After a brief time in the spotlight as an artist, Strong switched over to songwriting. He teamed up with Motown writer Norman Whitfield on “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” which first became a hit for Gladys Knight and the Pips in 1967 before going to No.1 on the pop and R&B charts the following year when Marvin Gaye released his own version of the song. 

Barrett and Whitfield also wrote songs for The Temptations like “Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me),” and “Psychedelic Shack” which was about the basement in Strong’s home on Monte Vista Street and Seven Mile, his son Chel Strong told BridgeDetroit last month. 

One of The Temptations’ most popular songs, “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone,” was written by the songwriting team, and won a Grammy Award for Best R&B Song in 1973. 

Strong left Motown for good in the early 70s and recorded some albums for Capitol Records and Epic Records. 

In 2004, Strong contributions to Motown were honored when he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Strong lived on Detroit’s west side with his wife Sandy Strong and seven children until the family moved to Southfield in the 1990s, Chel said. 

Chel described Strong as a protective father who wanted to be involved in his children’s lives. He served as a father figure to kids in the neighborhood as well.

“He was just so much of a role model to everyone,” Chel told BridgeDetroit. “Although he was who he was as far as what he did with his music, people that were blessed to know him on a personal level never even look at that because he was such a father figure to everyone.”

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  1. Best I know in music area 60-70 when music was music love on each other good old days just got back from war music was popping, on the way coming home from overseas I heard songs that light up your heart never forget my old songs. Back in the day good bless your family you will be on mission for God we need more like you fathers..

  2. I truly enjoyed this story, I learned the history behind the popular songs that were hits. I am glad that this story was available for me to enjoy.

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