Lamont Dozier was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Music, Original Song; won a Golden Globe for Best Original Song; won a BMI Award for Most Performed Song from a Film; won a Grammy for Best Song Written Specifically for a Motion Picture; was awarded on Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame; is the recipient of the BMI ICON Award; was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; received the Grammy Trustees Award; and, the National Academy of Songwriters bestowed its Lifetime Achievement Award and inducted him into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

In addition, as a member of the Holland-Dozier-Holland songwriting powerhouse at Berry Gordy’s Motown Records, he is credited with the writing of over 400 songs, 130 of which scored on the Pop Charts, over 70 of which were Top Ten Hits and more than 40 reached Number One on the charts and sold tens of millions of records.

He has written hit songs for the Supremes, the Four Tops, Martha and The Vandellas, and Marvin Gaye, to name only a few, and is credited with writing such hit songs as: “Baby I Need Your Loving,” “Baby Love,” “How Sweet It Is (to Be Loved by You),” “I Hear A Symphony” and “It’s the Same Old Song.”

Stay Thirsty Magazine was honored to visit with the legendary Lamont Dozier at his home in California for this Conversation about his life, his work and his new memoir.

STAY THIRSTY: In your memoir, How Sweet It Is: A Songwriter’s Reflections on Music, Motown, and the Mystery of the Muse, you recount your extraordinary life as a songwriter, producer, performer, husband and father. What prompted you to write your memoir and how do you feel now that it has been published? Has revealing so much of your personal life impacted your relationships with others?

LAMONT DOZIER: I've always wanted to write a book to inspire people and especially other writers. Years ago, I was approached on two separate occasions to write a book about my life and the Motown days by a very prestigious publisher. In each instance, I declined because they were all intent on me writing a "kiss and tell" book about everything that went on with everyone and that just did not appeal to me. To be honest, I'm a very private person and it took me a long time to feel comfortable coming forward with many elements of my life story. I was not about to bash anyone else in telling my story just to sell books. In meeting Scott Bomar, I felt that comfort level immediately when I worked with him on his podcast and when he asked me how I felt about writing a book, we had resonated so well together in doing the podcast that I knew he was the right co-author for me and BMG Books was the right publisher. I don’t really believe at this stage of my life that by revealing so much of my personal life it would impact any relationships with others, and I hope all will understand that I meant well in telling my truth.

STAY THIRSTY: During your years at Motown, working as part of the Holland-Dozier-Holland (H-D-H) songwriting and producing team, a staggering number of #1 hits were written by you and the Holland brothers. Looking back at that time, what do you attribute as the “secret sauce” that generated some of the most memorable songs of the 1960s and 1970s? 

LAMONT DOZIER: I believe the H-D-H secret sauce is that we were taking real life personal experiences and adding a little bit of fantasy to the lyrical stories, coupled with the driving beats and sweet melodies. Then we laid them down initially as ballads to make sure that the feeling was there, and then sped up the tempo!

The songwriting team of Lamont Dozier, Eddie Holland and Brian Holland (1969)

STAY THIRSTY: Of all the greats that you “grew up with” at Motown, and of all the greats that you worked with afterwards, which artist do you regret not collaborating with? How did overwhelming fame change your early friends and how do you feel meeting them now at awards ceremonies and special gatherings?

LAMONT DOZIER: I regret that I never got a chance to work with Otis Williams and The Temptations. He was my school buddy and I loved the group, but we were swamped with the Supremes and the Tops and it never worked out for me.

My really early friends were not in the industry at all and some people were not able to deal with my success. The artists were happy that we had the opportunity to make some music history together and we always stayed the same in our relationships.

Lamont Dozier in his studio (Late 1980s)

STAY THIRSTY: How were you able to make the transition from working with H-D-H to launching a durable solo career that has lasted decades?

LAMONT DOZIER: I had always wanted to be a recording artist and had started out doing that and needing to write my own songs and produce myself. So, when I first became a part of H-D-H, it was only temporary to me. The fact that it was a 10-year run kind of blew me away when I thought about it.

Leaving Detroit to pursue my dreams was frightening, but something I totally had to do for myself. The H-D-H relationship was special to me, but had changed over the years, and it was the right timing when I became disillusioned with what was going on at Invictus/Hot Wax and had to pick up myself and go for the dreams that I’d put on the back-burner so many years ago.

Lamont Dozier - American Bandstand (1975)

STAY THIRSTY: The tragic loss of your son Andre sent you into a decade-long depression. How were you able to recover from that period and regain the momentum in your life?

LAMONT DOZIER: It was very difficult to recover. I owe it to my wife Barbara and our children Beau, Paris and Desiree. I was allowed to grieve and then I realized that I didn’t want to really miss out on raising my children with my wife. She shouldered it all for quite a while, but ultimately, I wanted to push myself along.

An opportunity to work overseas on a very successful rock group came up and I took the job. It ended up being a six-month gig that had me writing and producing the songs and getting these guys in the group in the studio to make the album when they wouldn’t work in the same room with one another, which I didn’t know when I took the job. It was challenging, but I had stepped outside of my comfort zone to write and produce the album. I poured all of myself into making it a great project. My wife and children were coming back and forth every month to the UK and it helped me tremendously to turn my life around.

STAY THIRSTY: You speak frequently about the “Master Muse” and the impact on your life? How has your faith guided you through both your personal and professional days?

LAMONT DOZIER: I am deeply spiritual and pray and meditate many times a day. I have ultimate belief in God and my purpose on this earthly realm that has allowed me to put my name on his music since I never had formal training musically. I learned long ago that this was a special gift that had been given to me, and my faith has always guided me.

Lamont Dozier - Songwriters Hall of Fame (2009)

STAY THIRSTY: At the end of your memoir you recap your Songwriting Guiding Principles that codify not only solid concepts of thought and behavior, but also impart practical advice to young, aspiring songwriters. How do you find the work ethic and morality of today’s students? Do they ever ask how they can create the magic you experienced at Motown in their own careers?

LAMONT DOZIER: The students I’ve been fortunate enough to work with have all been very open to what I have had to say. The first thing I tell them is that they have to be thick-skinned and not take rejection to heart or to allow a concept of writer’s block to stop them from achieving their goals. Their integrity and work ethic have to match their creative output. I try to spend individual time with each student in a classroom and give them what they individually need from me.

STAY THIRSTY: Of all the lessons you have learned in life, what one lesson or mantra stands out?

LAMONT DOZIER: I’ve learned to never believe in a person as the answer to the problem or opportunity to success. Faith must first be in God and the right people will be placed in my life.

STAY THIRSTY: And, the questions everyone wants to know, what is your favorite song and why?

LAMONT DOZIER: That answer varies from time to time. Right now, I’m loving “I Hear A Symphony” because it is my wife’s and my song. It was the first record she ever bought as a little girl!

(All photographs courtesy of Lamont Dozier from his private collection.)


All opinions expressed are solely those of its author and do not reflect the opinions of Stay Thirsty Media, Inc.