Lamont Dozier: Stretchin’ Out
By David Nathan
When the time comes to chronicle the names of some of the top producers and songwriters of the sixties and seventies, there is no question that the legendary team of Eddie Holland, Lamont Dozier and Brian Holland will figure way up the top two or three. What other team can claim the consistency with which these three Detroit-based gentlemen generated hit product?
Credited with initiating the phenomenal ‘Motown sound’, they churned out hit record after hit record on everyone at Motown — The Supremes, The Four Tops, Martha & The Vandellas, The Miracles — at one time enjoying five out of the top ten records on the pop chart back in 1966. After exciting the company, the gentlemen enjoyed continued success with their own Invictus and Hot Wax companies providing hits for such acts as Freda Payne, The Chairmen of the Board, The Honeycone, Laura Lee and others.
Throughout the team’s 12-year period together they were not only responsible for producing hit product but wrote tunes which have subsequently become pop classics to the point where those same songs are still being recorded and still providing a whole range of artists with hit records. Of late, Linda Rondstadt has enjoyed Top 5 success in the States with “Heatwave” and Rod Stewart is leaping up the charts with “This Old Heart Of Mine”.
All good things have to come to an end in order that people may grow and in 1973, Lamont Dozier decided the time had come for him to pursue a solo career — initially with A.B.C. Records and recently he signed with Warner Bros. Records as both an artist and producer. B&S got the chance to talk with the ever-busy Mr Dozier while he was taking a break from completing his first album for Warners and he was happy to explain a little about the past, present and future.
“Well, right now, I’m looking to move in different directions with my own music as well as working with other artists, which was one of the main reasons why I signed with Warners,” Lamont explained. “I feel that the company offered me a really great deal because they are definitely happening in terms of black music today and they are responsive to my needs and wants. I feel that we have a good marriage between us and we’ve already begun discussing production projects for the future with acts that the company has and ones that they will be signing soon. Plus, I have been getting more involved with movies and soundtracks in general and the obvious linkup between Warners’ records and film divisions should help me stretch out in that direction, too,”
Lamont spent some two years with A.B.C. Records during which time he recorded three albums, two of which (“Out Here On My Own” and “Black Bach”) were released (“I guess they’ll issue the other one soon”), enjoying hit singles with “Trying To Hold On To My Woman” and “Fish Ain’t Bitin'”. He reflects, “I really didn’t feel that I had the freedom I needed at A.B.C. plus I didn’t get involved in production with other acts the way I wanted,” was the comment the gentleman had to make about his period with the company. “You see, it was only after I’d done some things over at Invictus — they had a whole album out last year on tracks we’d done — that I decided to start recording myself again.
“Originally, I performed way back in 1960 but it was for economic factors — the fact that the records I had out were flops! — that I decided to switch to writing and producing — I guess I took the back row to success. I guess all songwriters are frustrated singers anyway which is why so many producers and writers are going into the studios themselves these days — it’s really an ego thing.”
Lamont was the voice that was heard on the 1973 hit “Why Can’t We Be Lovers” and he says that after recording at Invictus, he felt convinced to go ahead and concentrate on a recording career for himself. “I think people are going to be interested to see the direction that I’m taking for myself now. It’s different — more of a contemporary jazz-oriented thing. I wrote all the material but one song and the album that we’re doing for Warner Bros. should show people another side. I can tell you that one of tracks on the album is an updating of “It’s The Same Old Song” — it’s what you might call a ‘hustle & bump’ track.”
Being such an accomplished writer, it was interesting to learn that Lamont often relies on personal situations to give him the inspiration for his material. “Yes, I’ve often broken up with a girl friend for a week just to be able to get that real feeling of hurt so that I can write what I write from experience! I should add that I always make sure we patch up again after the week’s over! But I’m constantly working at the piano — that’s my source of release, like a tranquilizer for me. I’ve always programmed myself to spend some time every day at the piano, wherever I am, ever since I was a kid. I’ve now gotten it down to about four hours a day but it’s absolutely essential for me to do that because in this business, you’ve got to have 100% dedication and commitment to what you’re doing. That’s why it’s so important to know what’s happening around you with records, radio, TV — everything. You’ve got to keep abreast of what’s going on to stay on top of it all.”
Commenting briefly on his days with Motown, Lamont says that he has no regrets about leaving the company or his subsequent departure from the H/D/H team. “It’s like you can only go so far with any team and I feel that we did as much as we could together. I was happy when I left the company because I felt that we reached the limit and it was time to grow, to go on to bigger and better things. And that was the same way I felt when we split up. After all, we’d been dealing with each other (Brian, Eddie and myself) for twelve years, with each other’s egos and personalities. So I have no regrets about whatever’s happened because any mistakes I’ve made in my life have only made me stronger, whether they were in the business or personal areas.”
Lamont’s ties with Motown were resumed last year when he produced an album on The Originals. “I never actually worked with the group whilst I was with Motown — I was actually originally a member of The Originals and I was responsible for bringing them to the company back in 1965 but it was only last year that we got a real chance to work together, although I had cut four or five sides on them whilst I was there. Unfortunately, I don’t feel that the album received the promotion or exposure it could have done but we should be working again with the group soon.”
Another team that Lamont may well be producing soon is The Four Tops, of whom he has fond memories from his Motown days. “We’ve all been together virtually since I was a kid in Detroit and we always had no problem working together. We used to just lock ourselves in the studios with some barbecue ribs and Cold Duck and come up with an album in a couple of days. I would say that they were probably the easiest guys to work with, always professional and polished.”
Having produced so many of the biggest artists of the past decade, it was interesting to discover that there are a couple that Lamont would work with if given the opportunity — and even more surprising when we found out who they were! “Well, I think if given the chance, I’d like to produce Barbra Streisand and Johnny Mathis because of their talent and versatility. You see, I want to go outside the strictly R&B format that’s been associated with me in the past. That’s something that comes naturally to me and now I want to explore other areas — country and western, pop, whatever. That’s one of the reasons why I think people will be surprised at what I’m doing myself — it’s more mellow, more romantic, more sophisticated, you see, I’m not the “Baby Love” guy anymore!”
When asked to cite his favourite songwriters, Lamont went for names like Joni Mitchell, Randy Newman, Paul McCartney and Leon Russell, once more revealing the necessity for his being aware of what’s happening around him outside of just R&B. For the future, Lamont has some very definite aims. “I’d like to be able to get that whole Top Ten having gotten half of it back in ’66! But there are many things I’d like to accomplish for the future. And I feel that entertainers shouldn’t just restrict their aims to their careers — they should always have something else outside to occupy them. In life, there is so much to deal with — I find myself becoming increasingly concerned with humanitarian projects. For instance, I recently became involved in a church back home in Detroit by donating money for re-building purposes and I want to also involve myself in a project concerning the building of a small hospital. So many entertainers spend their whole life working to get the success they want and when they’ve got it, there is nothing left for them but to try and stay where they are, to maintain their position. But I’ve found there has always got to be more to life than just that — that’s why my own interests include cooking, golf and tennis — they are things that can take you away from your career. Plus, in my own case, one of the things I’m aiming for now is a successful marriage. You see, I’ve already been through two which were unsuccessful and I’m not the kind of guy that gives up easily. I know what it takes now to make a marriage successful and to be a good father to my children and that’s what I’m striving for.”
With his career assured of continued and increased success, Lamont Dozier should have no problem in securing success in his personal sphere too. Whatever comes his way, the gentleman seems more than equipped to deal with what’s going on around him and 1976 promises to see him catapulted up into the limelight. Lamont revealed that he will be performing — “hopefully by June of this year” — and with all the other projects he’s involving himself with, he looks like fulfilling much of the potential that’s been shown since he began his solo career.
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