Happy Birthday To Motown Songwriter/Producer Brian Holland
Happy Birthday to Brian Holland, who turns 81 today (February 15th)!!! Holland along with brother Eddie, and Lamont Dozier, formed Motown’s legendary songwriting and production team Holland-Dozier-Holland, and have written nearly 300 songs — including the Four Tops‘ Top Ten hits “Standing In The Shadows Of Love,” “Bernadette,” “It’s The Same Old Song,” and their Number Ones “I Can’t Help Myself” and “Reach Out (I’ll Be There).”
Holland-Dozier-Holland are also responsible for writing and producing Martha & the Vandellas‘ “Nowhere To Run,” “Heatwave” and “Jimmy Mack.” However, they are best known for their string of Number Ones with the Supremes, including “Where Did Our Love Go,” “Baby Love,” “Stop! In The Name Of Love,” “Come See About Me,” “Back In My Arms Again,” and “I Hear A Symphony.”
Lamont Dozier told us that he and the Holland brothers took great pains to make their compositions great records — as well as timeless songs: “If I’m there working on ‘I Hear A Symphony’ or Brian is working on ‘Stop! In The Name Of Love’ — whatever it is, we would get together and figure out where do we go from one point to the other, so that the song sounds different, that it’s not trite musically, production-wise. And have something that would say something that would give a person a lift.”
Motown labelmate Martha Reeves says that it was the Supremes being taken under the wings of Holland-Dozier-Holland that first turned the group’s then-hitless career around: “The machinery got intact when Holland-Dozier-Holland were assigned to the Supremes, who had been there all along, and very well deserving of a hit. Well, Smokey Robinson had put out a whole album of singles on the Supremes, but none of them had a hit the way that his music had hit with Mary Wells.”
Brian Holland told us that the global success of the partners’ work pretty much took them all by surprise: “Y’know when we were writing songs all along, we thought that they were hits, but we didn’t necessarily (laughs) think they were gonna change the world! We’re as shocked as anybody else that they shook the world, and are still shaking the world, so to speak.”
Otis Williams of the Temptations told us that when he first heard Holland-Dozier-Holland’s production of the Four Tops’ “Reach Out (I’ll Be There)” he was left speechless: “When I heard that, I said, ‘Man, these guys are something else. Y’know they don’t only write songs they write unusual, strong, melodic, different chord structure-flowing kind of songs.”
Although Holland-Dozier-Holland were never too self-congratulatory over their many Motown successes, years after its release Brian Holland says that the lyrics to “I Hear A Symphony” actually reduced him to tears: “Only one song ever really got me. I talked to my brother about it years ago — it was ‘I Hear A Symphony.’ Somehow, I was coming out of a health club, and it was on the radio. And then I just start taking in the lyrics, (I) pulled over and my eyes started tearing up, y’know what I mean. There were some hell of a lyrics on that, man. ‘Cause it kept going on and building. What he did, he built upon top of emotion on top of emotion — which really got me. ‘I hear a symphony. . . as you talk to me . . . (laughs) as you touch me. . . as you. . .’ Y’know what I mean? You just build upon emotion and it really got to me.”
Holland-Dozier-Holland was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.
In 2009, Motown founder Berry Gordy presented Holland-Dozier-Holland with the prestigious Johnny Mercer Award at the Songwriter’s Hall Of Fame induction ceremony in New York City.