Whitfield, Norman (Jesse )
- Lukas Pearse
(b New York, NY, May 12, 1940; d Los Angeles, CA, Sept 16, 2008). American songwriter and record producer. Born in Harlem, New York, Whitfield relocated to Detroit with his family as a teenager. After briefly writing and producing songs for Detroit’s Thelma Records, he was hired by Motown owner Berry Gordy, Jr., to help with quality control and the selection of releases. He quickly became part of the songwriting and production staff.
He paired with lyricist Barrett Strong, and the two wrote and produced many Motown hits, most notably “I heard it through the grapevine,” which was recorded by many artists including Gladys Knight and the Pips as well as Marvin Gaye. He was instrumental to The Temptations, writing or cowriting hits such as “Papa was a rollin’ stone” and “Ain’t too proud to beg,” and shifting their sound from doo-wop and R&B toward funk and psychedelic soul. Writing longer songs for the group, which featured extended instrumental breaks and the group’s singers sharing lead vocals, earned Whitfield and Strong a number of Grammy Awards....