Money Did Not Make Millions for Songwriter

The Beatles in 1962 doing "Money".
The Beatles in 1962 doing "Money".
Barrett in 70's
Barrett in 70's
Barrett today
Barrett today

It has been over 50 years now since Barrett Strong penned Motown's first super hit in 1959, "Money (that's what I want)". Barrett recorded it then. Some royalties were gained but by 1962, his name as its writer, disappeared from the credits. In 1962, The Beatles had discovered the song when a friend brought it over one day for John to hear on a 45. From that moment onward, it became the standard rock signature song of the virtually little band in Liverpool. It was taylor perfect for John's raspy voice and screaming and the chorus (that's what I want) that were vibrantly sung by George and Paul into a single mike. The Beatles' rendition of this song remains what all covers aspire to because it is perfection.

However, its writer would have to wait many years for royalties because by 1964, when The Beatles released on their LP, Barrett's name was gone from the credits. The royalties generated by this song ran into millions because The Rolling Stones also covered it. Yet, Barrett never saw any of those royalties. His name had been removed by the executives of Motown Records who disputed that he was the writer, although the original 1959 copyright clearly shows otherwise.

From 1962 to 87, Barrett had no idea this had happened because it was hidden from him and felt the song's heyday had long gone. Now. Barrett is trying to re-establish his ownership of the song but have been blocked by a provision of copyright law that says he relinquished his rights to the song by failing to act in a timely fashion to contest Motown's claim. Well, that was 50 years too late! Motown had removed his name and added others back in 1962 and the copyright office does not notify authors of such changes. In 1987, his name was restored to the copyright only to have it removed again in 1988 by Motown.

Barrett also wrote another song The Beatles covered in 1963, "Misery" and the 60's, "I Heard It Through the Grapevine", in the 70's, there was "War".

Barrett was part of the Berry Gordy team that started Motown Records.


1962 version

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Comments 3 comments

Michelle Widmann 3 years ago

We learned about this sort of thing in my Rock and Popular Music course in university - a black artist would write an original piece and it would get little to no fame, then a white artist or group would come along, make it less soulful, turn it more into a pop song, and it would top the charts. Of course I'm talking back in the 50s-70s as opposed to recent artists, but that's really upsetting to me.

I suppose that sort of thing happens nowadays with more popular artists covering less popular bands' songs and hardly giving them credit - because everyone cares more about the popular group.


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lions44 3 years ago from Auburn, WA

Great job, Perry. I heard Berry Gordy was ruthless, but this confirms it. This guy got robbed. Voted up.


perrya profile image

perrya 3 years ago Author

@Michelle- well, the little fame he got was a result from shady dealings from another black man, not white. But, it was the English rock bands in the first British invasion that loved R&B black artists, thank god they did, they did them WAY better, IMO.

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