Deke Richards, 1944 – 2013

Motown songwriter Deke Richards died of esophageal cancer on Sunday in a hospice in Bellingham, Washington. Born Dennis Lussier in Los Angeles, Richards and his partners in the songwriting collective The Corporation—Alphonso Mizell, Freddie Perren and Motown founder Berry Gordy—wrote and produced the songs that made the Jackson 5 famous. Starting in 1969, the first three singles the band released on Gordy’s label—”I Want You Back,” “ABC” and “The Love You Save”—all hit no. 1 on the Billboard charts. The year before, though, Richards was part of the team (called “The Clan”; those guys chose some really bad names for their songwriting collectives) who wrote “Love Child,” also a no. 1 hit, for Diana Ross and the Supremes. For some reason, “Love Child” (above) is one of the songs I have the strongest memory of hearing in the first few years of my life. My mom must have played that one a lot. She was sort of a hippie, and surely appreciated the socially conscious message of the lyrics. Or, jeez, now that I think about it, maybe I’m a bastard?