Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Temptations - Cloud Nine (Gordy 7081)

Cloud Nine


Motown giant Norman Whitfield passed away this past Tuesday. The music he left behind him will live on forever.

In 1966 he replaced Smokey Robinson as the producer of The Temptations, and sent a song he had written for them with Eddie Holland all the way to #1 R&B, where it would sit for two months. Ain't Too Proud To Beg remains one of the truly great songs of our time and, like a cannon shot across the bow of American popular music, it let the world know that Norman Whitfield had arrived. Whitfield and Holland would provide the group with three more #1 smashes, (I Know) I'm Losing You, Beauty Is Only Skin Deep and I Can't Get Next To You, but Norman wasn't through.

He teamed up with Barrett Strong to form a songwriting team whose output just boggles the mind. They would write all time classics like:

Which were all, of course, #1 hits.

This incredible single we have here today was released around Thanksgiving in 1968. It only made it to #2, because Johnnie Taylor's monster Who's Making Love (produced at Stax by Detroit transplant Don Davis) still owned the top spot that fall. I was in the ninth grade when it came out and it spoke in many ways to where I was coming from back then - " ain't got no responsibilities!" I heard that. It remains one of my favorite songs ever (check out Dennis Coffey!).

The monumental work that Norman would go on to produce with the Temptations on Whitfield-Strong compositions like Runaway Child Running Wild, Ball Of Confusion, Psychedelic Shack, and the mighty, mighty Papa Was A Rollin' Stone sound just as powerful to me today as when I first heard them on the radio back in high school.

Thank You, Mr. Whitfield for a job well done. May you rest in peace.


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