Norman Whitfield Biography
Claim to Fame: Songwriter and producer (Motown)
Date of Death: September 16, 2008
Diabetes Type: Unknown
Norman Whitfield was an extremely innovative songwriter and producer, best known for his work with the Motown label. He is often credited with contributing to the making of the Motown Sound and the genre of psychedelic soul.
Born in New York in 1943, Whitfield spent his younger years in Harlem before moving to Detroit, Michigan. It was here that he gained his keen sense of determination and persistence through performing with local bands and hustling the pool table to make a living. At the age of 19, Whitfield put his determination to use and landed a job in the quality control department for Motowns Hitsville U.S.A. offices. It wasnt long before his obvious talent was noticed and a promotion came, making him not only a member of the songwriting staff but allowing him to produce the recordings of his songs.
In 1963, Whitfield began producing the majority of the Temptations records, and in 1966, he completely took over production for the band cranking out hits like "Aint Too Proud to Beg," "Beauty Is Only Skin Deep," and "I Know Im Losing You." He began experimenting with different production techniques and sound effects, often re-releasing his songs under different artists with completely different styles.
In 1968, when the lead singer of the Temptations, David Ruffin, was replaced with Dennis Edwards, Whitfield changed the groups style to that of a new psychedelic soul sound. The new edgier sound of the Temptations earned Motown its first Grammy award with the single "Cloud Nine." Then, in 1973, not only did the group win a Grammy for their single "Papa Was a Rollin Stone," but Whitfield won one of his own, the songwriters award for best R&B song. His new psychedelic sound soon became the template for not only the Temptations, but for all of Motown during the late 1960s.
In 1975, Whitfield left Motown to form his own label, Whitfield Records. He produced his first hit at his new home only a year later with Rose Royces "Car Wash." Whitfield was awarded another Grammy for his instrumental version of the song before he returned to producing for Motown in the 1980s.
After the decline of disco in the 80s, Whitfield ultimately fell off the map as both a songwriter and producer. He re-emerged in 2005 after pleading guilty to tax evasion of over $4 million worth of income. After a long battle with diabetes and other health issues, Whitfield died on September 16, 2008. He was reported to be either 65 or 67.
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