79 years ago, the legendary songwriter and producer Frank Wilson was born on this day in December.
Initially Wilson had intended to pursue a career in gospel, but he shifted gears after meeting with Hal Davis and Marc Gordon, the LA counterparts for the Motown office. Motown founder's Berry Gordy, Jr called Wilson in the 60's - so the Texan-born, LA-raised Wilson moved to Detroit to work with Motown's supremely talented songwriting and production team.
It might be easier to list Motown credits that didn't have Wilson's imprints than to list every song that did, because during his decade-long reign as the label's leading producer, he worked with nearly major Motown act - from Marvin Gaye to The Supremes to Four Tops.
By the late 70's, Wilson returned to his religious roots, gave Motown his farewell, and became a minister. He passed away in September 2012 at the age of 71 after a long battle with prostate cancer.
To commemorate his incredible legacy and towering collection of serious soul music, we listed below five Motown musts that we consider essential listening within Wilson's heavy-handed songwriting and production skills.
5. "Boogie Down" - Eddie Kendricks
Album: Boogie Down
Year of Release: 1974
Co-written by Leonard Caston Jr, Anita Poree, and Wilson, the proto-disco number gave the heavenly-voiced Eddie Kendricks his first major hit as a solo artist, locking down the No. 1 spot on Billboard's R&B Singles Chart for three weeks while holding down the No. 2 spot on the Pop Singles Chart. The driving piano arrangement and the creamy tenor of Kendrick's voice made the song a stone cold hit.
4. "I'm Living in Shame" - The Supremes
Album: Let the Sunshine In
Year of Release: 1969
Premiering first on CBS' The Ed Sullivan Show, the smash sequel to the Supremes "Love Child," was potentially the saddest dance song for its time. The lyrics told the troubling, poignant story of a woman raised in poverty, witnessing "Mom...cooking bread, [wearing] a dirty, raggedy scarf around her head." Now grown, she leaves her mother and levels up socioeconomically, only to receive a telegram one day about her mother's death and experiencing an unbearable feeling of guilt.
3. "Chained" - Marvin Gaye
Album: In The Groove
Year of Release: 1968
The funky single was in the same album responsible for "I Heard It Through the Grapevine." Gaye cries, "Oh mercy, mercy me. Oh things ain't what they used to be," which perfectly complimented the similar estranged grievances of the Grapevine hit.
2. "Love Child" - The Supremes
Album: Love Child
Year of Release: 1968
Another supreme single that helped define the Motown sound, the title track single became the Supreme' 11th No. 1 hit in the US. Behind the superpower song was a superstar clan of Motown's best, including Wilson, R. Dean Taylor, Deke Richards, and Henry Cosby (rightfully self-named "The Clan").
1. "Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)"
Year of Release: 1965
Wilson only ever released one single as a recording artist. Further cementing the rarity of his 1965 release, there were only 250 copies of the 7" vinyl record ever released into the world. WilsoWilson only ever released one single. However, 1965’s ‘Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)’ became a cult Northern Soul track. Only 250 copies of the 7″ vinyl record were pressed and most of them were destroyed when Wilson decided he wanted to focus on writing and producing. Take a good listen to the gem below: