Barrett Robust, a Motown founding artist and artistic composer who sang lead on the corporate’s breakthrough file “Cash (That’s What I Need)” and subsequently labored with Norman Whitfield on such hits as “I Heard It Via the Grapevine,” “Conflict,” and “Papa Was a Rolling Stone,” has died. He was 81.
The Motown Museum reported his dying on social media on Sunday, however no different data was offered.
“Barrett was not only a excellent vocalist and pianist, however he and his artistic accomplice Norman Whitfield developed an unbelievable physique of labor,” said Berry Gordy, creator of Motown.
Robust was simply 20 years previous when he determined to let his pal Gordy deal with and promote his songs whereas he was growing a recording empire in Detroit. Inside a yr, he was making historical past because the pianist and singer on “Cash,” a million-seller printed in early 1960 and Motown’s first big success. Robust by no means achieved the recognition of “Cash” on his personal and sought recognition that he contributed to its creation for many years. He did, nonetheless, develop a fruitful and various songwriting duo with Whitfield.
Whereas Gordy’s “Sound of Younger America” was panned for being too slick and repetitious, the Whitfield-Robust duo delivered hard-hitting and modern works, in addition to timeless ballads like “I Want It Would Rain” and “Simply My Creativeness (Operating Away with Me).” With “I Heard It Via the Grapevine,” they gave Gladys Knight and the Pips an up-tempo, call-and-response smash and Marvin Gaye a darkish, hypnotic ballad, his 1968 model changing into considered one of Motown’s all-time best-sellers.
As Motown grew more and more politically conscious late within the decade, Barrett-Whitfield produced the Temptations’ “Cloud 9” and “Psychedelic Shack,” in addition to Edwin Starr’s protest track “Conflict” with its well-repeated refrain, “Conflict! What’s it helpful for? Actually… nothing!”
“With ‘Conflict,’ I had a relative who was a paratrooper who was badly injured in Vietnam,” Robust advised LA Weekly in 1999. “I additionally know a person who used to sing with (Motown lyricist) Lamont Dozier who was wounded by shrapnel and was paralysed for all times. If you’re at house, you talk about these matters together with your households, and it encourages you to say one thing about it.”
Whitfield-other Robust’s chart-topping songs, largely for the Temptations, together with “I Can’t Get Subsequent to You,” “That’s the Means Love Is,” and the Grammy-winning chart-topper “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone”. The Rolling Stones (“Simply My Creativeness”) and Aretha Franklin (“I Want It Would Rain”) had been among the many artists that coated their tunes, as had been Bruce Springsteen (“Conflict”) and Al Inexperienced (“I Can’t Get Subsequent to You”).
Robust spent the Nineteen Sixties recording for varied labels earlier than returning to Motown within the early Nineteen Seventies and releasing numerous solo albums, together with “Stronghold” and “Love is You.” He was inducted into the Songwriters Corridor of Fame in 2004, the place he was described as “an important affect in Motown’s early years.” Whitfield handed away in 2008.
Robust was born in West Level, Mississippi, and finally moved to Detroit. He was a self-taught musician who studied piano with out taking classes and created the Robust Singers, a neighborhood gospel group, together with his sisters. Throughout his adolescence, he met performers like Franklin, Smokey Robinson, and Gordy, who had been captivated by his writing and piano expertise. “Cash,” with its opening scream of “The best issues in life are free/However you could give them to the birds and bees,” would paradoxically result in a battle – about cash.
Robust was beforehand named as one of many authors, and he typically talked about arising with the hammering piano riff whereas enjoying on Ray Charles’ “What’d I Say” within the studio. Nevertheless it wasn’t till a long time later that he found Motown had deleted his title from the credit, depriving him royalties for a well-liked track recorded by the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and plenty of others, in addition to a memento on John Lennon’s house jukebox. Robust’s authorized case was broken since he waited so lengthy to request that his title be restored. (Gordy is without doubt one of the track’s acknowledged authors, and his attorneys mentioned Robust’s title solely appeared as a result of a clerical mistake).
“Songs outlive people,” Robust mentioned in 2013 to The New York Instances. “The publication was the true cause Motown labored. The recordings had been only a mechanism for getting the tunes out to the general public. The actual cash is in publication, subsequently you probably have printed, preserve it. That’s all there may be to it. You’re throwing away your life, your heritage in the event you give it away. That music will proceed to play while you’re gone.”