Money - Barrett Strong
Eddie Holland's brother Brian was also a singer, but signed onto Berry Gordy's nascent Motown organisation early as a general dogsbody, singing in the vocal group the Satintones, doing a bit of backing singing from time to time and fitting in wherever he could. So it's no surprise that he turns up on the first major Motown hit, Barrett Strong's "Money (That's What I Want)", playing a fairly nifty tambourine.
The song was written by Berry Gordy and Janie Bradford, and, as has often been said, is a big clue to the driven character of Berry Gordy himself as he powered his fledgeling recording company to US and world chart domination. While in many ways a sensitive character - how could he so successfully judge the quality of the Motown songbook otherwise? - he never let his romanticism get in the way of hard business sense, even where the complexities of his relationships with the likes of Diana Ross and Marvin Gaye were involved. As the song says:
"Your love give me such a thrill
but your love don't pay my bills -
I need money - that's what I want."
The singer was Barrett Strong for whom this was his only chart hit, and who, after a string of unsuccessful subsequent singles, teamed up with songwriter Norman Whitfield to become one of Motown's greatest songwriting and production teams in the late sixties. Strong's name was included in the songwriting credits of "Money" when it was first released in 1959, only to be removed 3 years later. When the copyright was renewed in 1987, his name was re-instated, only to be deleted again shortly afterwards, the Motown Corporation claiming that they had accidentally duplicated the original error from the first pressing, despite Strong's consistent claims that he helped write the lyrics. Still, what they can't take away from him is his raw vocals along with his equally raw piano playing matched in relentless intensity by Benny Benjamin's drumming and a surprisingly modern sounding grunge guitar line by white Detroit session man Eugene Grew.
And whichever way you look at it, the words fit the man and Berry Gordy's credentials are clearly established: never let sentiment get in the way of business. Let's face it, his judgement is sound from the start: this record is solid gold.
"Money don't get everything it's true
but what it don't get, I can't use!"