Norman Whitfield was born on May 12th 1940 in Harlem, New York, but his family moved to Detroit in his late teens. Given his interest in music, he soon got involved in the local scene. By the age of eighteen, he’d written and produced at Detroit’s Thelma Records, including sides by Richard Street (future member of the Temptations), and played as a member of the Distants, the precursors to the Temptations. He’d also played tambourine with the band Popcorn and the Mohawks on some Thelma sides, backing the Distants. He was to see potential in that group’s sound that would enhance both of their careers in the decades to follow.
At the age of nineteen he began to seek work at the recently-formed Motown Records. According to Dave Laing (Journalist for the Guardian Newspaper, Thursday 18th September 2008): “Norman Whitfield’s first actual job at Motown Records as a member of staff, for which he got paid $15 a week, was to lend a critical ear to new recordings by Motown staff, a job Whitfield said consisted of being totally honest about what records you were listening to. He graded the tracks for Gordy’s monthly staff meetings, where decisions were made on which should be released”.
…… Norman Whitfield had made the breakthrough! Now he set about consolidating his success, with a song for the Temptations entitled “Beauty Is Only Skin Deep”, another collaboration with Eddie Holland. This time the track begins with the sound of vibes played by both Jack Ashford and Jack Brokensha (a white Australian) and Eddie “Bongo” Brown doing a brilliant job on percussion. The driving, powerful hook of “Beauty Is Only Skin Deep” was underscored by David Ruffin’s heartrending signature voice, with harmonies provided by the rest of The Temptations.
Available soon in the Signature Sounds Shop