Lamont Dozier puts royal touch on Motown gold

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Watch TV, go to a movie, or stop by the supermarket, and there's a chance you'll hear a melody created by Lamont Dozier.

"It happens all the time," said Dozier, co-author of 74 top 10 hits and an astounding 54 number one hits. "It's humbling, it really does humble you."

The 76-year-old singer-songwriter hit it big with brothers Brian and Eddie Holland in 1960s Detroit. The Holland-Dozier-Holland team wrote the cream of the crop of Motown's gold records.

"Baby Love," "Stop in the Name of Love," and "Where did our Love Go?" for The Supremes, just to name a few.

Dozier said Diana Ross and The Supremes couldn't stand "Where Did Our Love Go?"

"Everyone thought it was horrible," Dozier said. "They eventually gave in to doing it. The record took off like crazy. Within three weeks of release, it was number one with three million copies sold."

Mobile users: Click here to watch Dozier's full interview with Joe Birch.

Dozier and Nashville based record producer Fred Mollin are re-imagining 22 of Dozier's hit records to help Motown lovers hear how some of their favorite music came to life.

"They'll get an earful of how it was done in a very simple way," Dozier said of his agile voice accompanied mostly by piano, guitar and a duet or two.

"It's an unplugged album of his most famous songs done by him in a way that's timeless and acoustic and really sparse," said Mollin, who's produced and performed with a who's who of modern music royalty. "To be honest, this is really volume one. Because there's another album full of songs that we have to do. There's a Supremes medley we're doing. We couldn't do everything because the list is so long."

The Holland-Dozier-Holland hit parade helped make the aforementioned Supremes, The Four Tops, Martha and the Vandellas and Marvin Gaye nationally known artists.

"There's a work ethic involved," Dozier said of his long hours writing songs seven days a week with the Holland brothers at Motown. "We were like a factory within a factory so we kept an assembly line going. Consequently, we were very fortunate to have a lot of hit records. We made sure the song sounded like a hit."

Dozier now teaches songwriting at USC in LA, where he is artist-in-residence.

"I always tell the kids who are interested in songwriting that they have to have a work ethic it's seven days a week," Dozier said. "Then you get the muse on your side. I call the Master Muse: God. As far as I'm concerned, he writes all the stuff and gives them to me."

As far as advice for aspiring songwriters, Dozier offered encouragement.

"Believe in yourself and believe you can do it because a lot of people will tell you, like when I was coming up, what are you doing talking about a songwriter? Boy, you better get out there and get a job. I said, no, I can do this."

Dozier said his many doubters came back after his long string of hits to claim they had known he had it in him all along.

"Everybody knows these songs," Dozier said of his new record with Mollin. "The fans – all the fans of Motown and that Motown sound – I think will enjoy this new version."

"People love these songs, they're hit records," said Leigh Shockey, Chairperson and CEO of Memphis-based Drexel Chemical Company and now financier of the new Lamont Dozier album. "This was something that Fred (Mollin) and I decided to do together. It's kind of a start at looking at other songwriter-performers we may want to do later on. Lamont was a good choice to start with."

As a recent former Chairperson of the Memphis Area Chamber of Commerce, Shockey said she encouraged Dozier and Mollin to move at least one recording session from Nashville to Memphis's Royal Studios where the Rev. Al Green and producer Willie Mitchell made musical magic.

Mitchell's son, Laurence "Boo "Mitchell, won a Grammy this year for Bruno Mars' hit record "Uptown Funk" recorded at Royal. Shockey wants to help stimulate music recording here.

"Memphis is a music city any way you look at it, and I hope with people like Boo in town, a music business city as well," Shockey said.

For at least one session, Lamont Dozier put some Royal Studios touch on his treasure of Motown gold.

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