Sunday, February 10, 2013

Holland-Dozier-Holland: Can I Get A Witness

It’s the second week of the month and time now for our Second Week Special. For this month, we will feature the songwriting/production team of Holland, Dozier, and Holland. The trio consisted of brothers Brian and Eddie Holland and Lamont Dozier. While each had started as a performer, they preferred songwriting and production.

The division of labor among the trio included Brian Holland and Lamont Dozier composing the music and sharing production duties while Eddie Holland authored the lyrics and arranged the vocals. The sound was formulaic and set the stage for many of Motown’s hit records during the 1960s. The trio was under contract with Motown from 1962 to 1968.

They continued with their own labels, Invictus and Hot Wax, and authored material under the pseudonym of Edythe Wayne to avoid sharing royalties with Berry Gordy while they were in litigation with Motown over their contract.

This week, we will feature only Motown releases and we’ll start with an early classic from Marvin Gaye. “Can I get a Witness” was released in 1963 and peaked on Cashbox’s R&B charts at #3. It was a mid charter on Billboard’s Hot 100 only making it to #22.

In addition to his vocals, Marvin Gaye played the piano and was accompanied by Motown’s house band, The Funk Brothers. In addition to The Funk Brothers on backup vocals, The Supremes are also in the mix.

The song peaked during Christmas 1963, which is notoriously a bad time for singles as radio typically floods the airwaves with Christmas music. Lee Michaels later covered the song in 1971 and his version charted at #39. His version was also poorly timed with the Christmas season. 

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