NPR logo Harvey Fuqua: From Doo-Wop To Disco

Harvey Fuqua: From Doo-Wop To Disco

Harvey Fuqua was one of the major forces at Motown Records. Michael Ochs Archives hide caption

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Harvey Fuqua was one of the major forces at Motown Records.

Michael Ochs Archives

Longtime music producer Harvey Fuqua, one of the major forces at Motown Records throughout the '60s and early '70s, died July 6 in Detroit. He was 80.

Though Fuqua hasn't always attracted the same recognition as the Holland-Dozier-Holland team or the late Norman Whitfield, he was pivotal in the history of soul music, and his talent touched many classic recordings in a career spanning more than three decades. Here's a look at five of Fuqua's most notable contributions.

Harvey Fuqua: From Doo-Wop To Disco

Cover for The Moonglows

Ten Commandments of Love

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/128466919/128472619" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Ten Commandments of Love

  • from Harvey & the Moonglows 2000
  • by Harvey & the Moonglows

Fuqua began his career as one of the lead songwriters and singers for the Cleveland-based doo-woppers in The Moonglows. With a forceful baritone, Fuqua's voice asserted itself strongly within the group's distinctive street-corner harmonies, though Fuqua often had to make room for the group's other vocalist, Bobby Lester. "Ten Commandments of Love," from 1957, is an oft-cited example of Fuqua in the driver's chair, at the height of his doo-wop career.

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Song
Harvey & the Moonglows 2000
Album
Harvey & the Moonglows 2000
Artist
Harvey & the Moonglows
Label
Resurging Artist
Released
2007

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Cover for Soul Groover

What Does It Take to Win Your Love

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/128466919/128472477" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

What Does It Take to Win Your Love

  • from Soul Groover
  • by Alton Ellis

In his time at Motown, Fuqua worked on several major hits, including Stevie Wonder's "Yester-me, Yester-you, Yesterday" and Edwin Starr's raucous "25 Miles." But few songs had the kind of enduring influence of the tune he wrote and produced for Junior Walker and the All-Stars, "What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)." Covered by everyone from Santana to The Fifth Dimension to Kenny G, it also spawned a sublime version by Jamaica's king of reggae soul, Alton Ellis. Surprisingly, this cover works especially well because it's missing the signature horns (which always leaned toward being overdone) and replaces it with a guitar playing the same melody.

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Song
Soul Groover
Album
Soul Groover
Artist
Alton Ellis
Label
Trojan (Cityhall)
Released
1997

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Cover for Marvin Gaye Gold

Ain't No Mountain High Enough

  • from 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terre
  • by Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell

After the original Moonglows quit (or were fired, depending on which stories you believe) in 1957, Fuqua replaced them with members of a Washington, D.C.-based group, The Marquees, which included a young drummer and budding vocalist named Marvin Gaye. Fuqua took Gaye with him when he, along with Gwen Gordy, formed the short-lived Harvey and Tri-Phi imprints, and all were then absorbed into the label run by Gwen's brother Berry: Motown. Gaye quickly rose to become one of the label's main assets, and Fuqua continued to play a pivotal role in helping pair Gaye with his greatest singing partner, Tammi Terrell. Fuqua produced several songs for them, including their 1967 recording of Ashford and Simpson's "Ain't No Mountain High Enough."

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Song
Marvin Gaye Gold
Album
Marvin Gaye Gold
Artist
Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell
Label
Motown Records
Released
2000

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Cover for Marvin Gaye

Sexual Healing

  • from Gold [Motown]
  • by Marvin Gaye

By the early 1980s, Fuqua was on the fringes of the music industry, and Gaye's career was also in remission. But in 1982, the two former work partners managed to catch lightning in a bottle one last time with "Sexual Healing." Recalling the seductive magic of "Let's Get It On," "Sexual Healing" gave Gaye his last massive hit before his untimely death, and Fuqua once again proved how powerful his partnership with the singer could be, even two decades after their first meeting.

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Song
Gold [Motown]
Album
Gold [Motown]
Artist
Marvin Gaye
Label
Motown
Released
2004

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Cover for New Birth

K-Jee

  • from Very Best of the New Birth Inc.: Where Soul Meets Funk
  • by The New Birth

In the early 1970s, Fuqua left Motown and landed a deal with RCA. There, he showed a keen ear for the myriad soul styles sprouting forth in that era, and his two main groups at RCA (The Nite-Liters and New Birth) began as stellar funk acts before moving toward a slicker proto-disco sound. (Fuqua later helped discover Sylvester during the height of the disco era.) The Nite-Liters' "K-Jee" was originally a B-side, but it ended up becoming the group's most lasting hit, thanks to a distinctive horn riff that drew the attention of artists throughout the '70s. "K-Jee" became quite popular in Peru, and the song acquired a whole new life when MFSB's cover of it ended up on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack in 1977.

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Song
Very Best of the New Birth Inc.: Where Soul Meets Funk
Album
Very Best of the New Birth Inc.: Where Soul Meets Funk
Artist
The New Birth
Label
RCA Records
Released
1995

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