The creative team of Holland-Dozier-Holland became the dominant and most influential songwriting and music production team of the 1960s. They were responsible for making Motown a globally powerful force in the music industry that was able to meet the challenge of the British invasion led by The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. They were instrumental in defining the signature sound of Motown, with the help of the dynamic studio band The Funk Brothers. If you then add the brilliant arrangements of Paul Riser, the vocal backing of The Andantes and the sweet sound of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra strings section, led by Gordon Staples, then you have the recipe for “The Sound of Young America”.
Lamont Dozier, Eddie Holland and his brother Brian were all working in the music industry at the start of the 60s. Eddie Holland was working with Motown founder Berry Gordy. Holland’s 1958 single “You” (on the Mercury label) was among Gordy’s first productions. Later, Eddie Holland tried to launch himself as a Motown recording artist, achieving a Top 30 hit in the USA in 1961 with “Jamie”.
Eddie’s brother Brian Holland was a songwriter at Motown. In his early days at the company, Brian Holland worked with Robert Bateman, forming the Brianbert production team. (Robert Bateman was also one of Motown’s first sound engineers, working closely with Lawrence Horn). Brian Holland’s first claim to fame was in 1961 as co-composer (with Georgia Dobbins, William Garrett, Freddie Gorman and Robert Bateman) of The Marvelettes’ “Please Mr. Postman”, which reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart week-ending 11th December 1961 (1week). This was Motown’s first number one, so it is no surprise that the Brianbert team became a template for future Motown production teams.
Lamont Dozier was a singer who worked for several labels in the late 1950s and early 1960s, including the Anna label (Berry Gordy’s sister Anna was the owner).
The three of them teamed up to create material for themselves and other artists, but soon discovered they liked being writers and producers rather than performers.
This fitted perfectly with Berry Gordy’s approach to creating hits. Gordy set up a small number of song-writing/production teams who could bounce ideas around and feed off each member’s creativity. Then he allocated a small number of artists to each team, so that the artists would feel well-supported. The Holland-Dozier-Holland team began working with The Supremes, The Four Tops and Martha and the Vandellas in 1963.
It was like finding a gold mine! For the next four years the hits came rolling off the production line of Studio A.
Along with Brian Holland, Dozier served as the team’s musical arranger and producer, whilst Eddie Holland concentrated mainly on lyrics and vocal production. The team’s first big hit was with Martha and the Vandellas, with a song that reached number one on the Billboard Hot Soul and R&B Singles Chart on 14th September 1963 (4 weeks). Produced and composed with a gospel backbeat, jazz overtones and doo-wop call and responsive vocals, “Heat Wave” was one of the first songs to exemplify the style of music later termed the “Motown Sound”.
The single was a breakthrough hit, peaking at number four on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart. It also garnered the group’s only Grammy Award nomination for Best Rhythm and Blues Recording for 1964, making Martha and the Vandellas the first Motown group ever to receive a Grammy Award nomination.
After seven years at Motown with over seventy hit singles, Holland, Dozier, Holland left the company at the end of 1967.