Holland-Dozier-Holland to be honoured with 2,543rd star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

Why did it take so long for the men who wrote the soundtrack to a decade to be honoured, asks Gillian Orr
Click to follow
The Independent Online

As far as songwriting teams go, they might not be as instantly recognisable as Lennon and McCartney or Rodgers and Hammerstein, but Holland-Dozier-Holland are responsible for some of the biggest hits of the Sixties.

You might not know their names, but you will certainly know their work. So who exactly are Lamont Dozier and brothers Brian and Eddie Holland, who will tomorrow be honoured with the 2,543rd star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame?

The trio joined Berry Gordy Jr's Motown Records in 1962, when they were in their early twenties, and soon became a hit-making machine for the likes of The Supremes, The Four Tops, Marvin Gaye and Martha and the Vandellas. Over the next five years, Dozier and Brian Holland composed and produced each number, while Eddie Holland wrote the lyrics and arranged the vocals. Their productivity would put Pharrell Williams to shame.

Among the tracks to which they applied their golden touch were "Stop! In the Name of Love", "You Can't Hurry Love", "Reach Out I'll Be There", "How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You" and "Heat Wave." One could go on but there's simply not ample space to include every song they put out; just know that their five year tenancy at Motown produced 44 US Top 40 hits and 12 number ones.

 

"It's been a little while coming, but better late than never, as they say," Lamont Dozier told The Independent. "I'm feeling very good about it. A lot of people are going to be there to cheer us on, and we feel that it's going to be a great day. We're just happy about it."

At the ceremony later tomorrow, guest speakers will include the Supremes' Mary Wilson and Berry Gordy Jr. It's a wonder the latter will be there at all, considering what happened when the trio left his record label at the beginning of 1968.

After a dispute over profit sharing and royalties, Holland-Dozier-Holland started their own labels, Invictus Records and Hot Wax Records. Gordy Jr sued for breach of contract, to which H-D-H (as they were known in the biz) countersued. It led to one of the longest and messiest legal battles in music history, making Paul McCartney's divorce or the dispute over James Brown's estate convivial in comparison. Perhaps, though, things were never as bad as they seemed. Speaking about the litigation in 2008 Dozier commented, "Business is business, love is love."

Writing under the pseudonym Edythe Wayne because of the legal disputes, they had a couple of stand-out successes including "Band of Gold" and "Give Me Just A Little More Time", but ultimately H-D-H never did quite recreate the magic that they had at Hitsville USA, the nickname given to the Detroit building that housed Motown Records.

Motown.jpg
Eddie Holland, Lamont Dozier and Brian Holland of the legendary Motown songwriting team Holland-Dozier-Holland (Getty)

Since going their separate ways in the mid-Seventies, there have been some surprising moves. Brian Holland tried his luck as a solo performer, and Dozier actually collaborated with Mick Hucknall on two Simply Red albums, so presumably H-D-H's fall outs and legal disputes had really taken their toll on the former's wellbeing. They last got together to write more than a dozen new songs for a musical of The First Wives Club, based on the novel and film, which premiered in 2009 and ran for the year. Although reviews were mixed, demand was enormous. It opens again next week in Chicago and hopes to move to Broadway later this year.

Their music also features prominently in the Broadway smash hit, Motown: The Musical, which looks set to arrive in London in the next 12 months.

Asked why the songs still resonate with the public 50 years on, Dozier sounds somewhat bemused.

"That is a miracle," he laughs. "When we were doing those tunes at Motown, we had no idea that those songs would still be around today. Matter of fact, we were just trying to stay afloat, make a living, and perhaps have a few hit songs here and there. So to be a part of something that was brand new and that was taking over the world was phenomenal. And the hits just kept coming. The more we did, the more blessings came upon us."

It might be well overdue, but on receiving their Hollywood star, it will seem that "Forever Came Today".

Comments