Holland-Dozier-Holland – Three of a Kind

Holland-Dozier-Holland is the name behind the early success of Motown and many singing groups and solo artists of the 60s and 70s, and the team is known be one of the best songwriter and production groups of its era.

Its members were Lamont Dozier who began his singing career as a children’s choir member and wrote his first song at age 10, Edward Holland, Jr., a college dropout who preferred writing songs, and Brian Holland, Eddie’s brother, as the third member. Hence, the group’s name Holland-Dozier-Holland.

Lamont Dozier began his singing career as a member of his grandmother’s choir, and had recorded on several labels in the 1950s and 60s, including the Anna label, owned by Berry Gordy’s sister. Eddie Holland had also come into contact with Gordy, dropping out of college in 1958 to work for him, and his brother, Brian Holland, had been involved in two Marvelettes hits, ‘Playboy’ and ‘Please Mr. Postman’.

So the foundations had been laid for these three to get together in 1963 to start the so-called Motown sound of Detroit that dominated the American airwaves in the 60s. The collaboration was an instant success, with Dozier and Brian Holland focusing on composing and producing, and Eddie writing and arranging. Together, they wrote the vast majority of Motown’s hits between 1963 and 1967.

Before coming together, Lamont Dozier had recorded with the Romeos when he was fifteen prior to joining Anna records in 1961, and Eddie Holland also had a brief singing career before the group was formed. These earlier experiences gave them the inspiration to sing their own material, although they ultimately decided to stick to writing and producing for other artists.

At that time Motown had many performers under contract and Holland-Dozier-Holland wrote and produced songs for most of them. During their Motown days, they created 25 number one hit singles including Martha and the Vandellas’ “(Love is Like a) Heat Wave”, “Nowhere To Run” and “Quicksand”. They also gave Marvin Gaye his “How Sweet It Is (To be Loved By You)” and “Can I Get A Witness” among others. They also produced “Mickey’s Monkey” for the Miracles.

Their brilliance was well recognized through their works for The Supremes, for whom they came up with five consecutive number 1 singles in the US charts beginning with “Where Did Our Love Go” in 1964. The Four Tops also benefitted from their innovative writing and composing, and in their heyday Holland-Dozier-Holland were in demand by just about every artist in the Detroit area and beyond.

The trio continued to write and produce hit songs with Motown Records until they had a problem with Berry Gordy, Jr., founder and head of the company. In 1967, their dissatisfaction with their share of the profits and royalties came to a head, and after a short period of protest in the form of a slowdown of work the group had left the label by early 1968.

With Motown suing them for breach of contract, they also countersued, and the issue was not decided until 1977, making it one of the longest disputes of its kind in the music industry. The group was ordered by court to pay Motown several thousand dollars in damages, indicating the contractual hold that record labels had over its writers, producers and artists in these days.

After their fruitful years, and already out of Motown, the group founded their own two labels, namely Invictus records and Hot Wax Records. Invictus released “Give Me Just A Little Time”, “Pay to the Piper”, and “Chairman of the Board” which were averagely successful, and Hot Wax had its share with hits including “Someone’s Been Sleeping”, Girls It Ain’t Easy”, “One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show” and “The Day I Found Myself”.

Lamont Dozier left the group in 1974 to pursue a solo singing career. Under ABC Records he continued to make hits that include “Trying To Hold on to my Woman”, “Fish Ain’t Biting”, and “Let Me Start Tonight”. Still going solo, he produced the 1977 Aretha Franklin album titled “Sweet Passion” and has written songs for Simply Red, Boz Scaggs, Eric Clapton, and Phil Collins.

Dozier was replaced by Harold Beatty and Holland-Dozier-Holland continued under the same name writing and producing songs for various artists. There was even a time when they worked with Michael Jackson and The Supremes who were Motown artists while the breach of contract case was still under litigation.

Dozier still continues with his solo singing career and has his own production company. Brian and Edward Holland run the HDH Records and Productions, producing work from the Invictus and Hot wax labels as well as new recordings of their own.

Holland-Dozier-Holland has got together for a once-only reunion to write the score of a musical theater version of the film “The First Wives Club”, due to start at the Old Globe in San Diego on 15th July, 2009, prior to a Broadway run.


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