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OBITUARIES : Norman Whitfield, 1941 - 2008

Motown producer, songwriter won 2 Grammys

September 18, 2008|Randy Lewis | Times Staff Writer

Gordy teamed Whitfield up with Strong, whose 1960 recording of his own song, "Money," gave Motown one of its first hits. After some early successes with their songs, Gordy recognized Whitfield's talent at production and put him in charge of the Temptations, who first reached No. 1 on the pop chart with "My Girl," written and produced by Robinson.

But starting with "Ain't Too Proud to Beg" in 1966, Whitfield wrote and produced more than two dozen hits for the group over the next eight years.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday, September 30, 2008 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 35 words Type of Material: Correction
Norman Whitfield obituary: An obituary in the Sept. 18 California section on Motown songwriter and producer Norman Whitfield said he was 67, born in 1941. He was 68, born in 1940, according to family members.

"We grew up together," original Temptations singer Otis Williams said Wednesday. "He was my lifelong friend [and] one of the best producers Motown ever had."

Whitfield also oversaw recordings by Edwin Starr, who hit No. 1 with Whitfield's thunderously produced single "War," and the Undisputed Truth.

In the mid-1970s, Whitfield left Motown and started his own Whitfield Records, and went to No. 1 again with Rose Royce's disco-era hit "Car Wash." The musical score for that 1976 film snagged Whitfield his second Grammy.

Said author Ritz: "I was working with Berry Gordy once and he told me 'Man, if the Motown Museum should have a whole wing dedicated to one person, it would be Norman Whitfield.' "

In 2005, Whitfield pleaded guilty to tax evasion and was fined $25,000 for failing to report more than $4 million in income. He was sentenced to home detention rather than prison because of his failing health.

Information on Whitfield's survivors or funeral services was not immediately available.

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randy.lewis@latimes.com

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