We at The Second Disc are not musicians. Well - I don't want to speak for Joe, but outside of an enthusiastic karaoke night every now and again, I am not a musician. But I obviously think of what it takes to mix brain power and artistic expression so brilliantly in the creation of a song, as well as the struggles that every artist faces when trying to "make it." Earning a living is one thing, sure, but so is the magic of connecting with a friend or a stranger through a song of your own creation. It's obviously hard to do; so rarefied are the names of the people who could do it even once, for a fleeting moment in time.
Then you see a name like Lamont Dozier, and wonder how the hell he did it so many times. The Detroit-born songwriter, who died yesterday (August 8), was the middle of the Holland-Dozier-Holland partnership, a writing and production team with brothers Brian and Eddie Holland. Together, songs of theirs reached the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 more than 30 times. Thirty times! When you read obituaries of Dozier that discuss "countless" hits, it's not far off the mark. "Where Did Our Love Go," "Baby Love," "Come See About Me," "Stop! In the Name of Love," "Back in My Arms Again," "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)," "I Hear a Symphony," "You Can't Hurry Love," "Reach Out I'll Be There," "You Keep Me Hangin' On," "Love is Here and Now You're Gone," "Jimmy Mack," "Band of Gold" - those are merely the ones that reached No. 1 on a music chart.
The H-D-H body of work is crucial to Motown Records' rise and domination as a musical and cultural force in the 1960s. Though it's easy to decry today's pop music as the work of committee, Berry Gordy's label was a machine - with all the good and bad that description entails - and the three men were a crucial cog in that system. Together with the Funk Brothers and the artists who sang their words and melodies - including The Supremes, jokingly labeled "no-hit" around the office of West Grand Boulevard until they very much were not thanks to Holland-Dozier-Holland, and the Four Tops, who voiced some of the most deeply felt love and loss on record in the '60s - the trio could be relied on to turn out musical bliss after musical bliss.
Not even the rough machinations of the music business could sully their reputations. When the trio felt they were being pushed too hard with too little financial compensation, they locked in a decade-long legal battle with Gordy and Motown, setting up their own Invictus and Hot Wax labels. Though the material was (and perhaps still is) never distributed with the brio of Motown, you'd be a fool to overlook the trio's work in their last few years together (often under the pseudonym Edith Wayne). Freda Payne's "Band of Gold" and The Chairmen of The Board's "Give Me Just a Little More Time" hit the same highs that The Supremes and The Tops, or Marvin Gaye, or Martha and The Vandellas, all could.
Dozier would go solo in the '70s, scoring a hit as a singer (but not a songwriter) with "Trying to Hold On to My Woman" in 1973, and would even collaborate with fan Phil Collins on the hit "Two Hearts." The original trio would be honored by both the Songwriters and the Rock and Roll Halls of Fame in the '80s and '90s, and even reunited in the late '00s to score an ill-fated stage musical adaptation of The First Wives Club. More than the incredible bullet points of their careers, though, it's the memories you no doubt have of their work together, from "Heat Wave" to "How Sweet It Is (to Be Loved by You)," from "Standing in the Shadows of Love" to "Reflections."
That is, as always, the most bittersweet thing about being a music fan. The people who score our dreams and memories will pass on, but - if all works out the way it should - the music will last forever, one way or another. We love you, Mr. Dozier. Yes we do.
Ben in Colorado says
A wonderful tribute.
Howard Blount says
Such a lovely and well-deserved tribute!
Justin Cole says
Ugh. This one is a punch in the gut for me. Without him, imagine the gaping hole there would be in 20th century music. Beautiful tribute.
Harry N Cohen says
Thanks for this beautiful and well deserved tribute.
Don't forget Lamont Dozier's contribution to the Carolina beach music discography. 1982's "Cool Me Out," which he wrote and recorded. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uam_2elsYtI