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Deke Richards, Motown Producer And Songwriter, Dies

Listen: A bit of The Jackson Five singing 'ABC'

Once we mention them, get these Jackson 5 songs out of your head:

— "ABC"

— "I Want You Back"

Or how about "Love Child" from The Supremes?

Deke Richards, "leader of the Motown songwriting, arranging and producing team known as The Corporation" that came up with those and many other hits, has died.

Richards was 68. According to Universal Music, he passed away at a hospice in Bellingham, Wash., from esophageal cancer.

NPR's Neda Ulaby tells our Newscast desk that Richards and The Corporation helped rescue Motown Records when the label was shedding talent in the late 1960s. After Richards' Motown contract expired, he worked with Fleetwood Mac but "wound up suing the band over the album Rumors," Neda says.

Rolling Stone writes that:

"Richards, a veteran Los Angeles guitarist for R&B nightclub bands, signed with Motown in 1966. He had performed with singer Debbie Dean; when the two met Gordy, Dean landed a recording contract as Motown's first white singer, and Richards signed his own contract as a producer and writer.

"Two years later, when the Supremes were struggling to land a hit, Gordy paired Richards with fellow songwriters R. Dean Taylor, Frank Wilson and Pam Sawyer. He sequestered them in Detroit's Ponchartrain Hotel and instructed them to write a million-seller. In four days, they came up with "Love Child," the bold song about illegitimate children that became one of Diana Ross' most powerful performances and quickly hit Number One."

According to the BBC, "Richards' final work was the mixing of eight unreleased tracks by Martha Reeves and The Vandellas for the band's 50th anniversary box set, which is to be released on 5 April."

NPR's Neda Ulaby on Deke Richards

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