Most of today’s generation have no clue who Norman Whitfield is, but the Detroit native was one of the most important producers of the late Sixties and early Seventies. He was the main catalyst from turning Motown Records from a freshly-scrubbed pop-friendly label into something a little more psychedelic and sinister. While he wrote and produced nearly every song during the Temptations phenomenal post-Smokey run (“I Wish It Would Rain”, “I Can’t Get Next to You”, “Papa Was a Rolling Stone”), his most treasured composition is undoubtedly “I Heard it Through the Grapevine”, a song whose definitive version was provided by Marvin Gaye, but has been rerecorded by everyone from Creedence Clearwater Revival to the frickin’ California Raisins.
That string of hits alone would have been enough to ensure Whifield’s legendary status, but he went on to discover and produce well into the disco age. His most popular discovery of that era was Rose Royce, who scored chart hits with “Car Wash”, “I Wanna Get Next to You”, and the classic “Wishing on a Star”.
At a time when most current pop music sounds alike, it’s important to remember the originals, and Norman Whitfield was a true original.
Here’s The Tempts performing “I Wish It Would Rain”, one of my all-time favorite songs. Below it, a little bonus from Amy Winehouse and Paul Weller.