The very first hit on what became Motown Records, ‘Money (That’s What I Want)’ was one of the key songs that launched an empire. Breaking the mould of popular music of the age and placing money ahead of love as the thing one most desired, Barrett Strong’s 1960 hit was a refreshingly unapologetic ode to avarice.
Having just established his Tamla label (the original incarnation of what soon became Motown) Berry Gordy licenced the song to the Anna Records label owned by his two sisters Anna and Gwen for its superior distribution capabilities; this helped promote the record on a national level and it reached number 23 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Though this was Strong’s only hit as an artist, he is probably best known for co-writing many classic songs with Motown producer Norman Whitfield; ‘I Heard It Through The Grapevine’ and ‘Papa Was A Rolling Stone’ are amongst his writing credits. Strong also claims to have co-wrote ‘Money (That’s What I Want)’ with Berry Gordy and Janie Bradford but this has been the source of much dispute; his writing credit was removed three years after the song was written, restored in 1987 but then removed once again the following year.
‘Money (That’s What I Want)’ is a fine example of early 60s R&B and the very genesis of the Motown dynasty. The song is distinguished in its being covered by some of rock n roll’s all time greats (The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Doors) and Rolling Stone Magazine voted it as number 288 in its “500 Greatest Songs of All Time”.