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Norman Whitfield
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    (May 12, 1940-September 16, 2008)
    Born in Harlem, New York City, New York
    Wrote and produced singles for the Temptations (‘Ain’t Too Proud to Beg’, ‘ Beauty Is Only Skin Deep,’ ‘(I Know) I’m Losing You,’ ‘I Wish It Would Rain,’ ‘Cloud Nine,’ ‘I Can’t Get Next to You,’ ‘Ball of Confusion,’ ‘Just My Imagination,’ and ‘Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone’), Edwin Starr (‘War’), the Undisputed Truth (‘Smiling Faces Sometimes’), and Rose Royce (‘Car Wash’ and ‘I Wanna Get Next to You’)
    Founded Whitfield Records (1975)
    Inducted with frequent collaborator Barrett Strong into the Songwriters Hall of Fame (2004)
    He was a pool hustler before he joined Motown Records.
    Friction developed between him and the Temptations, who felt he put more emphasis on the backing instruments than their vocals and who wanted him to write more songs about romance and fewer about social issues.
    He pleaded guilty to failing to report $2 million in income to the IRS and was sentenced to six months of house arrest (2005).
    He was the first head of Motown’s ‘quality control’ department, where he evaluated the label’s latest recordings for their potential as hit singles.
    He replaced Smokey Robinson as the Temptations’ primary writer/producer after his ‘Ain’t Too Proud to Beg’ outperformed Smokey’s ‘Get Ready’ on the Top 40.
    He wrote and produced Gladys Knight’s ‘I Heard It Through the Grapevine,’ which became Motown’s best-selling single – until it was dethroned by Marvin Gaye’s version of the same song, also produced by Whitfield.
    He won Grammys for R&B Song of the Year (‘Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone,’ 1972) and Best Original Score Written for a Motion Picture (‘Car Wash,’ 1976).

Credit: C. Fishel

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