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Motown Singer and Temptations Songwriter Barrett Strong Dead at 81

Barrett Strong
Barrett Strong

L. Busacca/WireImag Barrett Strong

Barrett Strong, the musician and songwriter behind Motown Records' first hit has died. He was 81.

The Motown Museum confirmed the news in a social media post on Sunday.

"It is with great sadness that we share the passing of legendary @ClassicMotown singer and songwriter Barrett Strong," the Twitter post read.

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"I am saddened to hear of the passing of Barrett Strong, one of my earliest artists, and the man who sang my first big hit," said Motown founder Berry Gordy in a statement.

He continued, "Barrett was not only a great singer and piano player, but he, along with his writing partner Norman Whitfield, created an incredible body of work, primarily with the Temptations. Their hit songs were revolutionary in sound and captured the spirit of the times … Barrett is an original member of the Motown Family and will be missed by all of us."

Strong, who born in West Point, Mississippi on Feb. 5, 1941 and raised in Detroit, co-wrote some of Motown's most enduring hits, including "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" for Marvin Gaye and Gladys Knight & the Pips.

Throughout his career, he also famously co-wrote songs for The Temptations like "I Wish It Would Rain," "Just My Imagination," "Cloud Nine," "Psychedelic Shack" and "Papa Was a Rolling Stone." The latter earned him a Grammy Award.

In 1959, Strong was signed to Gordy's Tamla Records and released his first single "Let's Rock."

Later that year, Strong created "Money (That's What I Want)" and it reached No. 2 on the U.S. R&B charts.

Barrett Strong
Barrett Strong

Charlie Gillett/Redferns Barrett Strong

He also went on to work with artists such as Smokey Robinson, Aretha Franklin and more.

His contributions earned him an induction into the Songwriter's Hall of Fame in 2004.

Strong also recorded two solo albums in the '70s called Stronghold and Love Is You.

However, the transition from performer to songwriter was natural for him. "I never felt comfortable with myself as a recording artist," Strong told Billboard in 2016. "I had to work to support my family. I'm not looking for the spotlight and all the glamour and stuff like that. I just like to work in my studio and see what we can come up with."

A cause of death for the late musician is yet to be revealed.