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Songwriter Lamont Dozier, who co-wrote hits for the Supremes and Four Tops, has died

Songwriter Lamont Dozier in 2013. He co-wrote songs that helped define the Motown sound. He died Monday at 81.
Chelsea Lauren
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Getty Images for BMI
Songwriter Lamont Dozier in 2013. He co-wrote songs that helped define the Motown sound. He died Monday at 81.

Updated August 9, 2022 at 11:36 AM ET

Songwriter Lamont Dozier has died at age 81. Along with Brian and Eddie Holland, Dozier co-wrote dozens hits for The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, The Four Tops and others. His death was announced by his son on Instagram.

"Heat Wave," "How Sweet It Is," "Stop In The Name of Love," "You Keep Me Hangin' On," "Nowhere To Run," "Bernadette"... Holland-Dozier-Holland were talented, prolific songwriters who were instrumental in making Motown "the home of Hitsville, U.S.A."

His family released a statement saying the "devoted father and legendary songwriter, producer and recording artist, died peacefully in his home on Monday, August 8. ... We love him dearly and will miss him always."

Dozier grew up in Detroit. In 2004, he told NPR it was an elementary school teacher who liked his writing and encouraged him to keep at it. "She thought it was very astute of me to have such a feel for words and stuff," Dozier said, "So I started to put these words to music by the time I was, like, 12 or 13."

By the time he was 15, Dozier had his own doo-wop group called The Romeos.

In the 1960s, the Motor City's most talented artists soon found their way to Berry Gordy's Motown. Gordy modeled his record label after a Ford assembly line with Holland-Dozier-Holland quickly becoming one of its finest song designers.

(From left) songwriters Eddie Holland, Lamont Dozier, and Brian Holland pose at their Hollywood Walk of Fame Star ceremony in 2015.
Frederic J. Brown / AFP via Getty Images
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AFP via Getty Images
(From left) songwriters Eddie Holland, Lamont Dozier, and Brian Holland pose at their Hollywood Walk of Fame Star ceremony in 2015.

Earlier this year the Library of Congress named Holland-Dozier-Holland's "Reach Out, I'll Be There," recorded by The Four Tops in 1966, to its National Recording Registry.

Lamont Dozier "wanted to write 'a journey of emotions with sustained tension, like a bolero,'" according to The Library of Congress. "To achieve that, he 'alternated the keys, from a minor, Russian feel in the verse to a major, gospel feel in the chorus.' "

Dozier parted ways with the Holland brothers in the early 1970s but his creative output continued over the next several decades. He released a solo album and penned songs for Alison Moyet, Simply Red and Phil Collins.

In 2019, Dozier's memoir How Sweet It Is: A Songwriter's Reflections on Music, Motown and the Mystery of the Muse was published.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Elizabeth Blair is a Peabody Award-winning senior producer/reporter on the Arts Desk of NPR News.

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