Norman Whitfield – RIP

The most diverse staff songwriter ever? That’s what a friend suggested when he emailed the news. From “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” to a string of ever-ambitious hits for the Temptations that are like an aural history of the post-liberal collapse. Ambition had its diminishing returns too, as his increasingly baggy mid seventies anthems show; listening to a Tempts comp from “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg” through “1990” will illustrate how Nixonland succeeded the Great Society. He did funky paranoia better than Sly Stone. He did subcultural exploitation better than What’s Going On (The Supremes’ “Love Child” maybe comes closest). Fact Others Probably Knew Before I Did: he wrote “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore” for Rose Royce; this kissing cousin to the masochism of “(I Know) I’m Losing You” was later slaughtered by Madonna.

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