Dearest One - Lamont Dozier
The lament for Lamont continues.
The songwriting team of the Holland brothers, Brian and Eddie, and Lamont Dozier (left above) who died on August 8th, nearly two months ago, first got together in 1962 when they were employed by Berry Gordy as song producers and arrangers in 1962, prior to being employed full time by Gordy's Motown Records full time the following year.
All of the three had aspirations to be singers, and had fronted doo-wop soul groups in their teens, (see the previous post for Lamont Dozier as part of the Romeos) but such ambitions rapidly took back seat to the increasing demands made of their songwriting and production abilities by the label.
"Dearest One", from 1962, is one of their earlier writing efforts, if not the earliest, and is the first single released under Lamont's own name. The style is very much of its time, the vocals and melody very Ben E King, the backing music piano and drums very fifties Detroit. While the record label, Mel-o-dy, isn't one of the Motown group, it's almost definitely Benny Benjamin, later of the Motown house band the Funk Brothers, on drums. And it sounds like Motown's regular female backing trio, the Andantes aahing and oohing in the background.
But what stands out the most is Lamont's vocal: good range, great timing, confident, relaxed and sexy, complete with impassioned, croaky lead-ins to some of the lines on the words "as" and "I". Anyone who heard this assured singer and was told he was only only 21, would surely have thought he was destined for a bright future in the music industry. And they'd have been right, though perhaps not in the role they imagined.
The song itself, a hint of what is to come, is a "situation song", with a strong story line: the singer, it transpires, is writing a letter to his girl-friend at home while he's away in the army. The song takes on a more serious note when he says:
"....You can date other guys if you want to
but please don't let them kiss you
'cause it would make me feel like going over the hill...."
"Going over the hill" is a slang phrase meaning to desert, so there's a sense of desperation here, or more sinisterly, perhaps, emotional blackmail. He also would, at that time, be very much at risk of being posted to Vietnam. So even on this early, seemingly light, plaintive ditty, there is the hint of a heavier undertone. For Holland Dozier Holland, "Dearest One" is a marker for the future, a great team learning their trade.