In appreciation – Lamont Dozier

Lamont Dozier in 1969. (c) Michael Ochs Archives, via Getty Images

Last week we heard the sad news of the death of Lamont Dozier, one of Motown’s chief songwriters. If you have listening to British radio stations over the last week you may well have heard a tribute or two in his honour – and even if you haven’t heard the tributes, the chances are you have heard a song in which Lamont had a vested writing interest.

The shower of tributes from artists in the wake of his death says everything about the quality of his songwriting. Carole King, in a Twitter post, said this:

As a member of that fabled Holland-Dozier-Holland trio (with Brian and Eddie Holland) he helped form something of a production line of quality Motown hits, a trio of songwriters the label could turn to at incredibly short notice, and who thought nothing of challenging their star vocalists.

First in this tribute is an appropriate one for this website – The SupremesI Hear A Symphony, from 1965. Here it is on an episode of Hullabaloo, introduced in a classical context:

Some of Holland-Dozier-Holland’s finest songs were written for The Four Tops – and it would be hard to top Reach Out, I’ll Be There, exploiting the incredibly powerful voice of lead singer Levi Stubbs to give the song its strongest possible impact:

Meanwhile another recipient of the trio’s fruits were Martha & the Vandellas, whose Heatwave remains one of Motown’s most powerful and affirmative calling cards:

Back to The Supremes, and the feverish You Keep Me Hangin’ On – not just for the pleading Diana Ross vocal but for the insistent guitar line that just will not go away:

Another Martha & the Vandellas track, Jimmy Mack, written in the wake of the death of the songwriter Ronnie Mack at the age of only 23, asks ‘when are you comin’ back?’

Another UK chart topper for Dozier and the Hollands was Band of Gold by Freda Payne, released in 1970 and a radio staple to this day:

Finally here is a wonderful song Lamont wrote for the imperious Alison Moyet in 1984. Invisible is surely one of her finest vocal achievements:

For a full list of songs in which Lamont was involved, you can go to the SecondHandSongs website

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