With the passing of Lamont Dozier, I felt compelled to hurriedly complete this list-in-progress, documenting my own love affair with the music written and produced by Mr. Dozier along with his partners Eddie and Brian Holland. Each of the three has other noteworthy accomplishments, but their work together is truly stunning, particularly their groundbreaking contributions to the development of the Motown record label. Without any further ado and in chronological order, here are some of my personal favorites.
1 ) “Darling, I Hum Our Song” by Eddie Holland (1962)
This fun song, later made more popular by the Four Tops and Martha and the Vandellas, catches Eddie Holland in the tail end of his underrated career as a singer.
2 ) “(Love Is Like A) Heat Wave” by Martha and the Vandellas (1963)
This delightful track was both HDH’s first top 10 pop hit and the first for Martha and the Vandellas, a vital Motown group and one of the early exemplars of the label’s highly effective “assembly line.”
3 ) “Baby Don’t You Do It” by Marvin Gaye (1964)
I could write for pages about Marvin Gaye’s brilliance, and while he worked with different producers/songwriters at different times, I love the way HDH brought out the blues and gospel roots while maintaining the Motown pop sheen they were developing, as on this soulful tune.
4 ) “Take Me in Your Arms (Rock Me a Little While)” by Kim Weston (1965)
Full disclosure: I first heard this as a teenager on a best-of album by the Doobie Brothers. When I got older and more into Motown and heard Kim Weston (and the Isley Brothers) sing this one my mind was blown.
5 ) “Reach Out I’ll Be There” by Four Tops (1966)
If I had to pick one group or artist to epitomize the way HDH could balance elaborate production with down home soul (which to me is in turn the essence of my favorite pockets of Motown sound), it would certainly be the Four Tops, and to my ears this moving, booty-shaking song is the apex of that.
6 ) “(I’m A) Road Runner” by Junior Walker & the Allstars (1966)
By contrast, not all HDH songs, even by this point, relied on more elaborate productions, as evidenced by this bluesy tune performed by Junior Walker & the Allstars without any further adornment.
7 ) “Love’s Gone Bad” by Chris Clark (1966)
This song demonstrates HDH’s ability to coax irresistible sounds from lesser-known artists, while foreshadowing their capacity to veer into sounds congruent with the burgeoning rise of psychedelic rock.
8 ) “Reflections” by Diana Ross and the Supremes (1967)
More full disclosure: my own tastes in female vocals tend to run more on the side of the grit one hears from Aretha Franklin or Fontella Bass or Etta James, while my feelings about Supremes-era Diana tend to be more in the realm of distant respect. But sometimes the full package of a song just gets me in the gut and this gnarly production hits me every time. This is also one of the tracks (along with #5 on the list) that I cite when demonstrating to students just how awesome it is when one tunes in to James Jamerson’s bass and the layers of tambourines.
9 ) “Band of Gold” by Freda Payne (1970)
Debatably their best known song from their post-Motown era (though I could’ve included Charimen of the Board’s “Give Me Just A Little More Time”), this iconic and moving song by the versatile Freda Payne demonstrates irrefutably that while HDH benefited from the Motown infrastructure, they were hardly dependent on it.
10 ) “You’re Gonna Need Me” by Dionne Warwick (1973)
This is a fascinating meeting of a songwriting/production team displaced from the label with which they became huge and a singer displaced from the songwriting/production with which she became famous (Bacharach/David, that is). That would be interesting enough as a footnote, but this funky track (subsequently sampled by J Dilla) demonstrates how potent they all still were at this point.