Norman Whitfield passed away on tuesday. He made his mark on the musical world is huge and will not be forgotten. He produced many of the hits that Motown records churned out during the late 60's and early 70's. He almost single handedly pushed the company from its more friendly type of hits to more of social commentary that echoed the Civil Rights Movement. He produced and arranged hits and albums for the Temptations for eight straight years and was famous for producing different versions of his songs with different artists.
Probably the most famous example is "I Heard it Through the Grapevine" which produced hits for both Gladys Knight and the Pips and Marvin Gaye. What many may not know is that Whitfield made the version with Gladys and the Pips out of frustration because Barry Gordy would not release the Marvin Gaye version which was first. When the Gladys version skyrocketed up the R&B and Pop charts, Gordy changed his mind and released Gaye's version a year later. It was even more successful spending nine weeks at the top of the charts becoming the most successful single in Marvin Gaye's long career.
Later on Whitfield left Motown and founded his own record label, which produced the hits for his seminal group Rose Royce and produced the music for the classic 70's movie "Car Wash". The hits were many: Grapevine, "War", "Cloud Nine", "Smiling Faces Sometimes", "Just My Imagination", "Papa Was a Rolling Stone", "Masterpiece", "Car Wash", "Wishing on a Star" and many more.
Mr. Whitfield, thank you for the classic songs that you produced and is a part of our lives. Peace to you on the other side.