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Obituaries

Ed Townsend, 74; Wrote, Performed 'For Your Love'

August 16, 2003|Dennis McLellan | Times Staff Writer

Ed Townsend, a singer, songwriter and producer best known for his 1958 pop single "For Your Love" and for writing and co-producing Marvin Gaye's No. 1 hit "Let's Get It On," has died. He was 74.

Townsend, a Sun City resident, died of heart failure Wednesday in a San Bernardino hospital.

"For Your Love," a lush ballad that rose to No. 7 on the R&B charts and reached the U.S. Top 20, was Townsend's biggest -- and most enduring -- hit as a recording artist. "He had a very rich baritone voice and [the record] struck a responsive chord with anybody who was in love," Dick Clark, who met Townsend when he sang the song on Clark's "American Bandstand" in 1958, told The Times. Clark added that "Let's Get It On," a million-selling 1973 hit for Gaye, who co-produced it with Townsend, "was one of the milestone Marvin Gaye recordings, one of his top three."

With its overt sexual theme, "Let's Get It On" generated controversy. But Townsend, who had recently undergone drug and alcohol rehabilitation, insisted the song was actually about getting on with life.

He wrote more than 200 songs, including writing and producing the Impressions' 1974 No. 1 R&B hit "Finally Got Myself Together (I'm A Changed Man)."

Born April 16, 1929, in Fayetteville, Tenn., Townsend sang in his minister father's African Methodist Episcopal Church choir. He graduated from Arkansas State College and taught briefly before joining the Marine Corps. He served two years in South Korea.

After moving to Los Angeles in the mid-1950s, Townsend wrote songs that were recorded by Nat King Cole, Etta James and other artists.

He was playing a demo record of "For Your Love" for Capitol Records executive Joe Zerga when Zerga suggested that Townsend record it himself.

"The simplicity of the song was what makes it enduring to the people," said Clyde Otis, chairman of the Clyde Otis Music Group and a friend of Townsend's since the 1950s. "Ed had no idea it would become that popular."

He is survived by his wife, Janice; his sons from his first wife, Cherrigale, David and Michael, both of Reseda; a daughter, Kathryn Griffin of Houston; a brother, Earl of Los Angeles, a sister, Helen McDonald of Sun City; three stepdaughters; three grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.

A funeral service will be held at 1 p.m. Wednesday at the Salvation Army Riverside Corps chapel, 3695 1st St., Riverside. A viewing will begin at 11 a.m.

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