Songwriter Norman Whitfield dies

Wrote 'War,' 'I Heard it Through the Grapevine'

Norman Whitfield, who co-wrote a string of classics including “War” and “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” died Tuesday in Los Angeles. He was 67.

He suffered from complications of diabetes and had recently emerged from a coma, The Detroit Free Press reported.

Whitfield was a longtime producer for the Motown label who, during the 1960s and ’70s, injected rock and psychedelic touches into the label’s soul music. Many of his biggest hits were co-written with Barrett Strong, with whom he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2004.

The two won the Grammy in 1972 for best R&B song for the Temptations’ “Papa Was a Rolling Stone.” Whitfield won another Grammy in 1976 for best original TV or motion picture score for “Car Wash.”

Whitfield also worked as a producer for the Temptations and others.

Many of Whitfield’s songs from that era, including Edwin Starr’s 1970 “War” and the Temptations’ 1970 “Ball of Confusion (That’s What the World Is Today),” have a strong political tone.

In a statement, Motown great Smokey Robinson hailed Whitfield as “one of the most prolific songwriters and record producers of our time. He will live forever through his great music.”

Among Whitfield’s other songs, according to the Songwriters Hall Web site, are “Beauty Is Only Skin Deep,” ”Cloud Nine” and “Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me),” all hits for the Temptations; and “Too Busy Thinking About My Baby,” a 1969 hit for Marvin Gaye.

Just last week, Gaye’s version of “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” from 1968, was ranked at No. 65 in Billboard magazine’s compilation of the top singles of the past 50 years. It was also a hit for Gladys Knight and the Pips, in 1967.

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