Barrett Strong Biography

Barrett Strong delivered Motown’s first hit

Biography

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Papa Was A Rolling Stone


Barrett Strong

There are two sides to Barrett Strong’s career. The first as an artist that recorded Motown’s first hit Money (That’s What I Want) in 1959. A song that was actually written by the president of Motown, Berry Gordy.

Money was Barrett and Motown’s first hit song and has since been covered by The Beatles, Jerry Lee Lewis, The Rolling Stones, and many Motown/Soul bands on a seemingly weekly basis.

As important as this was to kick start the label, Barrett’s strongest part of his career came in terms of the lyrics he wrote for other artists.

Perhaps most notably I Heard It Through The Grapevine, War, Wherever I Lay My Hat (That’s My Home), and Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone.

Most of Barrett’s hits were created alongside producer Norman Whitfield.

When Motown relocated from Detroit to Los Angeles, Barrett stayed behind, and even though he has remained active, the glory days were behind him the day he walked away from the Motown factory.

Barrett Strong received a Grammy Award for Best R&B Song in 1973 for Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone.


Guitar Lessons


I Heard It Through The Grapevine – Step 1

Today we start working on a new song in Marvin Gaye’s I Heard It Through The Grapevine.

This song has a very clever chord progression. The home chord, Ebm, feels different depending on what section it appears in.

Go to I Heard It Through The Grapevine step 1.


I Heard It Through The Grapevine – Step 2 (Free Preview)

During the verse, the Ebm feels like the I chord of a blues.

Sure, the order and length of the chords are different from a standard blues, but the overall feel is there. It’s just that the I chord is now a Im chord.

Go to I Heard It Through The Grapevine step 2.


I Heard It Through The Grapevine – Step 3

Today we continue our study of the Motown classic. We do so by looking at the bridge.

As always, I’m giving you a bunch of examples to practice to loops. Use these as a starting point to develop your own parts.

Go to I Heard It Through The Grapevine step 3.


I Heard It Through The Grapevine – Step 4

You already played Ebm – Ab during the bridge. During the chorus, each of these chords gets a bar each.

This movement of a minor chord, a dom7 a 4th up is found naturally in a II – V.

Go to I Heard It Through The Grapevine step 4.


I Heard It Through The Grapevine – Step 5

In this lesson, we take a look at four sections that all use the same chord.

I like to keep this section improvised but before I’ll let you loose to do the same, here are six examples of what you could play. Learn them first.

Go to I Heard It Through The Grapevine step 5.


I Heard It Through The Grapevine – Step 6

Last time, you got six examples you could play over the intro, outro, and chorus tag. In this step I want you to improvise.

Keep the loop on for half an hour, keep improvising for this entire time.

Go to I Heard It Through The Grapevine step 6.


I Heard It Through The Grapevine – Step 7

It’s that time again – time to play the full song!

By practicing all sections individually you know this song by now, all that is left for me to do is give you the TAB.

Go to I Heard It Through The Grapevine step 7.


I Heard It Through The Grapevine – Step 8

It’s your turn, don’t just play what I did, take it somewhere else, keep improvising to the live band backing track on a loop for half an hour.

Don’t think about it as just one performance, instead, see it as an opportunity to discover the fret board.

Go to I Heard It Through The Grapevine step 8.


Guitar Lessons


Money (That’s What I Want) – Step 1

Today we start learning Money (That’s What I Want). Written by Barry Gordy and performed by Barrett Strong.

This is an early Motown hit with an easy to recognize guitar riff that has been covered by many artists and bands since.

Go to Money (That’s What I Want) step 1.


Money (That’s What I Want) – Step 2 (Free Preview)

Before we get into all the different ways we can play Money (That’s What I Want), we need to clear something up.

We need to talk about and understand, Blues melody language. We will do that by looking to the king of scales, the Minor Pentatonic.

Go to Money (That’s What I Want) step 2.


Money (That’s What I Want) – Step 3

Today we learn the remaining two shapes of the Minor Pentatonic before we connect all five shapes.

By doing all this hard work now, when it comes to playing the solo, you won’t trip over on not knowing your shapes well enough.

Go to Money (That’s What I Want) step 3.


Money (That’s What I Want) – Step 4

In this step, you’ll learn ten ways to play the main riff. The aim is that you learn these in order to develop your own version(s) of the riff.

Should that not happen, pick your favorite version(s) from the ten.

Go to Money (That’s What I Want) step 4.


Money (That’s What I Want) – Step 5

In this step, we have lots to go through. So far, all you’ve got is a bunch of variations of the main riff, the minor pentatonic shapes, and that initial melody.

By the time you finish today, you’ll be ready to play the complete song.

Go to Money (That’s What I Want) step 5.


Money (That’s What I Want) – Step 6

To notate in TAB what I play in the video is largely counterproductive, Blues is not a style that uses notation.

The goal is not to repeat but to constantly vary the licks, to improvise, to follow the song, to be in the moment.

Go to Money (That’s What I Want) step 6.


Money (That’s What I Want) – Step 7

In the video lesson, I play the entire song in an improvised way.

I’ll give you the TAB, but please only use this as a starting point as you too should be improvising.

Go to Money (That’s What I Want) step 7.


Money (That’s What I Want) – Step 8

In this final step, we finish our study of Motown’s Record Executive (Berry Gordy) who has told us about his motivation and what he really wants: Money.

We do this as you play the entire song with a recorded live band.

Go to Money (That’s What I Want) step 8.


Related Pages


Chords and Guitar Lessons

I Heard It Through The Grapevine is a Motown classic with a very clever chord progression.

All chords are as if from the key of Eb with just one chord being different, the Eb is a minor.

Go to I Heard It Through The Grapevine chords and guitar lessons


Lyrics

I bet you’re wonderin’ how I knew
‘Bout your plans to make me blue
With some other guy you knew before
Between the two of us guys you know I loved you more

Go to I Heard It Through The Grapevine lyrics


Chords and Guitar Lessons

Money (That’s What I Want) is a song written by Motown Record Executive Berry Gordy. First performed by Barrett Strong, it has since been covered by many.

As you learn this, I’ll reveal several ways you could play this song, including how to improvise a solo.

Go to Money (That’s What I Want) chords and guitar lessons.


Lyrics

The best things in life are free
But you can give them to the birds and bees
I need money (that’s what I want)
That’s what I want (that’s what I want)

Go to Money (That’s What I Want) lyrics.


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