Heard on CultureShift

Motown’s Lamont Dozier Started as a Janitor. Then He Wrote 500 Songs.

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Image credit: Courtesy of Lamont Dozier

In his new book “How Sweet It Is: A Songwriter’s Reflections on Music, Motown and the Mystery of the Muse,” the legendary songwriter reflects on his life in the music business.

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In The Groove is WDET’s award-winning series that highlights the music that has defined the lives of creatives from all walks of life. 

Lamont Dozier has cleaned up in the music business over the past 65 years.

I’ve written over 500 songs and I’m still doing it! I’m still loving it!” — Lamont Dozier, songwriter and producer

He’s written more than 500 songs in that time including a bevy of Motown hits that still endure today including 10 out of the Supremes’ 12 US No. 1 singles like “Baby Love” and “Stop! In The Name of Love.”

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But Dozier started out by cleaning up the floors of the now-defunct Anna Records — a Detroit-based label that pre-dated Motown and was ran by Berry Gordy’s sister Anna.

Click the player above to hear Lamont Dozier talk about growing up in the city’s Black Bottom neighborhood to being the first African-American to buy a home in Palmer Woods.

Lamont Dozier (left) with Eddie Holland (center) and Brian Holland (right) at Motown in the 1960sCourtesy of Lamont Dozier
Courtesy of Lamont Dozier

Lamont Dozier (left) with Eddie Holland (center) and Brian Holland (right) at Motown in the 1960s

When Berry Gordy launched Motown in 1959, he would play early versions of songs for Dozier as he worked including “Money” by Barrett Strong, the first big hit for the nascent label.

I said, ‘Man, that’s a hit!’” recalls Dozier, who admired Berry Gordy for his “get-up-and-go, refuse-to-die attitude.” He also respected Gordy because he hired the former janitor to become part of a growing team of producers, musicians and songwriters at Motown.

Dozier became part of the legendary songwriting trio Holland-Dozier-Holland, which included brothers Brian and Eddie Holland (left).

For nearly a decade, Dozier helped write some of the biggest songs for Motown including a bevy of stand-out work for the Four Tops and the Supremes.

In his new book “How Sweet It Is: A Songwriter’s Reflections on Music, Motown and the Mystery of the Muse,” Dozier reflects on how the decisions he’s made throughout his life have influenced his songwriting.

Dozier spoke to CultureShift’s Ryan Patrick Hooper about his story, and his top three favorite songs he’s written for “In the Groove,” below.

Lamont Dozier’s Top 3 Songs He’s Written


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Ryan Patrick Hooper, Host, CultureShift

Ryan Patrick Hooper is the award-winning host and producer of CultureShift on 101.9 WDET-FM Detroit’s NPR station. As a longtime arts and culture reporter and photographer, Hooper has covered stories for NPR, Detroit Free Press, Hour Detroit, SPIN and Paste magazine.

hooper@wdet.org Follow @HooperRadio

In The Groove

This post is a part of In The Groove.

WDET's award-winning original series In The Groove talks with creatives from all walks of life to reflect on the soundtracks of their lives -- the first record they bought with their own money to what's on their playlist today.

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