It’s December 13th and we’ve now passed the halfway mark in this years advent calendar as door flap number 13 needs to be opened. The delight behind the door today is a very rich one which is well worth cashing in! It’s the first ever Motown hit and probably one of the best songs ever that was written about money. It is the stupendous “Money (That’s What I Want)” by the incredibly talented Mr Barrett Strong.
The song was written by Berry Gordy and Janie Bradford and reached number 2 in the US R & B charts in 1960 after it’s release in August 1959. I was less than 8 months old back then. It was originally released on the Tamla label and the Anna label in the US. Both of these were part of Berry Gordy’s Motown stable. It has been covered by many artists from the Beatles to the Flying Lizards. But in my opinion none of the covers can match the electricity and power of Strong’s version. The Beatles actually played the song at their now infamous audition for Decca Records who turned them down. The Fab Four discovered the song, which was released on the London label in the UK, in Brian Epstein’s NEMS Record Store in Liverpool. The Flying Lizards version has also sound tracked a Taco Bell advert.
Barrett Strong went on to form an incredible song writing partnership with renowned Motown Producer Norman Whitfield. The pair wrote a string of classics for the Temptations (“Can’t Get Next To You”, “Psychedelic Shack”, “Ball Of Confusion” and “Papa Was A Rolling Stone” to name but a few), Edwin Starr (the stone cold classic; “War”) and Gladys Knight and the Pips and Marvin Gaye (both of whom recorded stunning hit versions of “I Heard It Through The Grapevine”). For me Barrett Strong is easily among the best lyricists of his generation. Sadly Norman Whitfield passed away in 2008.
In 1973 Barrett received a Grammy Award for Best R&B Song for the classic slow funk story song recorded by the Temptations; “Papa Was A Rolling Stone” He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall Of Fame in 2004. He is still going very strong (excuse the pun) and you can find some of his current music on iTunes. I would also like to thank Mr Strong for his comment on my December 3rd post about another Temptations song that he co-wrote with Norman Whitfield; “Cloud Nine” Click here to read that post.