Barrett Robust, certainly one of Motown’s founding artists and proficient songwriter who sang lead on the corporate’s hit single “Cash (That is What I Need)” and later collaborated with Norman Whitfield on such classics as “I Heard It By means of the Grapevine,” “Struggle,” and “Papa Kane Rollin’ Stone,” is lifeless. He was 81 years previous.
The Motown Museum introduced his demise Sunday through social media, and didn’t instantly present additional particulars.
“Not solely was Barrett a tremendous singer and pianist, however, alongside together with his writing accomplice Norman Whitfield, he created an unbelievable physique of labor,” Motown founder Berry Gordy stated in an announcement.
Robust was simply 20 when he agreed to let his good friend Gordy, within the early days of constructing a recording empire in Detroit, handle him and launch his music. Inside a yr, he was a part of historical past because the pianist and vocalist for “Cash,” a million-seller launched in early 1960 that was Motown’s first main hit. Robust by no means once more got here near the success of “Cash” on his personal, and many years later he fought for recognition that he helped write it. However, with Whitfield, he put collectively a productive and eclectic songwriting crew.
Whereas Gordy’s “Sound of Younger America” was criticized for being too shiny and repetitive, Whitfield-Robust’s crew delivered stern and thematic work, together with timeless ballads like “I Want It Would Rain” and “Simply My Creativeness (Run With Me)”. With “I Heard it By means of the Grapevine,” they delivered an up-tempo, call-and-response track for Gladys Knight and the Pips and a darkish, hypnotic ballad for Marvin Gaye, his 1968 model, certainly one of Motown’s all-time sellers.
As Motown turned extra politically aware late within the decade, Barrett Whitfield penned “Cloud 9” and “Psychedelic Shack” for The Temptations and for Edwin Starr’s protest anthem “Struggle” and his extensively quoted, “Struggle! What’s It for? Nothing?” by no means!”
“With ‘Struggle’,” Robust advised LA Weekly in 1999, “I had a cousin who was a paratrooper who was badly wounded in Vietnam. He was badly wounded by shrapnel and crippled for all times. You speak about this stuff with your loved ones if you’re sitting at house, and it evokes you to say one thing about it.”
Different hits for Whitfield-Robust, principally for the Temptations, included “I Cannot Get Subsequent to You”, “That is the Means Love Is” and “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” (generally spelled “Papa Was a Rolling Stone”) “). Artists whose songs they’ve coated have ranged from The Rolling Stones (Simply My Fantasy) and Aretha Franklin (I Hope It Rains) to Bruce Springsteen (“Struggle”) and Al Inexperienced (“I Cannot Be On Your Facet”).
Robust spent a part of the Nineteen Sixties recording for different labels, leaving Motown once more within the early Nineteen Seventies and producing a handful of solo albums, together with “Stronghold” and “Love is You”. In 2004, he was voted into the Songwriters Corridor of Fame, which cites him as “a pivotal determine in Motown’s childhood”.
Whitfield handed away in 2008.
Music by Robust and different Motown writers later appeared within the Broadway hit “Ain’t They Proud: The Life and Instances of the Temptations”.
Robust was born in West Level, Mississippi and moved to Detroit just a few years later. He was a self-taught musician who realized to play the piano with out the necessity for classes, and together with his sisters shaped an area gospel group, the Highly effective Singers. In his teenagers, he turned acquainted with artists equivalent to Franklin, Smokey Robinson, and Gordy, who admired his writing and piano enjoying. Sarcastically, “Cash” with its opening cry, “One of the best issues in life are free / However you may give them to the birds and the bees”, will result in a combat – over the cash.
Initially listed among the many writers, Robust usually talked about his innovation together with his piano blitz whereas jamming to Ray Charles’ “What’d I Say” within the studio. However solely many years later did he be taught that Motown had eliminated his title from the credit, costing him royalties for a folks normal coated by the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and lots of others and a memento on John Lennon’s jukebox. Robust’s authorized alibi was weakened as a result of he took so lengthy to ask for his title again. (Jordy is without doubt one of the track’s credited writers, and his legal professionals claimed Robust’s title solely appeared attributable to a clerical error.)
“Songs outlast individuals,” Robust advised The New York Instances in 2013. “The actual purpose Motown does enterprise is publishing. Information have been only a technique to get songs out to the general public. The actual cash is in publishing, and for those who’re publishing, dangle on to it. That is all there may be to it. In case you give it up, you hand over your life and your legacy. When you’re gone, it is on These songs are in motion.”