Who was the real Bernadette? Lamont Dozier shares true stories behind Motown hits

In his new memoir, How Sweet It Is, legendary Motown producer and songwriter Lamont Dozier remembers his work with legends like Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson and Stevie Wonder.

In his new memoir, Dozier remembers his work with legends like Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson and Stevie Wonder

Legendary Motown producer and songwriter Lamont Dozier photographed at Prisma Studios in Toronto on Friday Oct. 25, 2002. (Canadian Press)

Motown defined the sound of the 1960s and produced some of the most powerful hits of the era. Lamont Dozier, named one of the greatest songwriters of all time by Rolling Stone, is one of the minds behind those songs.

Dozier first hit it big as a part of Motown's in-house songwriting team known as Holland-Dozier-Holland, who co-wrote You Can't Hurry Love, Heat Wave, Baby Love and dozens more. 

In his new memoir, titled How Sweet It Is, Dozier remembers the inspiration for those songs. He joined q guest host Talia Schlanger to share some of those stories.

The Supremes, Stop! In the Name of Love

The first time the words "stop in the name of love" came out of Dozier's mouth, he was at a motel where he was "being a little naughty." When his main squeeze found out, she showed up at the motel to confront him.

"Well, she found out where I was and was knocking on the door, loud and shouting about who was it that I was with in this motel. I let her in after the other girl left, going out the back door," said Dozier.

"She came in and naturally I lied about it, saying I was there sleeping. ... I finally said, 'Please, there's nothing happening here and nothing is going on. Please, just stop in the name of love.' And she said, 'What? That's not funny.' I said, 'Wait a minute, did you hear what I said? Stop in the name of love. Did you hear the cash register?'"

Dozier's line in the motel would become the inspiration for Stop! In the Name of Love, one of 10 number one hits he co-wrote for the Supremes and the group's first number one song on the pop charts.

Four Tops, Bernadette

The song Bernadette by the Four Tops was also inspired by a real person from Dozier's life — a girl he knew from school when he was about 11 years old.

"She was my first muse, you might say. She was an Italian girl and a beautiful Italian girl, and I fell in love with her. You know, puppy love," said Dozier.

"She was somebody I remembered every time I sat down to write a song. And in later years, I thought about her, and the way I felt, and I was able to conjure up those feelings to write other songs, thinking about Bernadette. She was very instrumental in a lot of love songs."

Martha and the Vandellas, Nowhere to Run

In his memoir, Dozier talks about writing the song Nowhere to Run by Martha and the Vandellas after attending a going-away party for a man who'd been drafted and was shipping off to Vietnam.

"That night, this friend of a friend of mine had this young guy who was being shipped over in the Vietnam War," Dozier told Schlanger. "He was frightened about it. He had a premonition of sorts and he felt like he wouldn't be coming back."

"And so I was trying to make him feel better and give him all kind of inspiration about being positive and whatnot. ... He was gone a couple of months, six months or something like that, and sure enough, on the battlefield, he was killed. I was just really destroyed by it because he was so afraid."

Dozier's new memoir, How Sweet It Is: A Songwriter's Reflections on Music, Motown and the Mystery of the Muse, is out now. 

Click the 'Listen' link near the top of this page to hear Lamont Dozier's full conversation with guest host Talia Schlanger.

Produced by Chris Trowbridge


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