Deke Richards, 1944-2013

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?