Whitfield was responsible for ushering Motown into the 1970’s with his “psychedelic soul” genre of music.
He started his career as a $15-dollar-a-day Motown secretary, when he authored Marvin Gaye’s hit “Pride and Joy.”
Whitfield went on to produce tracks for Marvin Gaye, most notably “I Heard It Through The Grapevine,” The Temptations (Aint Too Proud Too Beg, Cloud Nine,” , The Undisputed Truth (Smiling Faces), Edwin Starr (War) and others.Like many from the earlier era of the Motown sound, Whitfield left Detroit and bought a home in the Hollywood Hills, near other Motown executives.
But Whitfiled always seemed to have an ear for fresh sounds and talents, which he would employ at Whitfield Records, waxing hits on groups like Undisputed Truth, Willie Hutch and most notably, Rose Royce.
“He walks in with tapes he’s done on unknown artists that often sound better than Motown’s best,” said Motown executive Gordon Prince.
According to reports, Norman Whitfield wrote the soundtrack to the hit film, Car Wash, which was released in 1976, in a single day.
The soundtrack earned him a Grammy in 1977.
His next big success would come as the executive producer of the soundtrack to Berry Gordy’s karate flick, The Last Dragon in 1985.
Norman Whitfield died in September of 2008.