Eddie Holland achieved great fame as the chief lyricist and vocal arranger of Motown’s top songwriting team alongside his brother Brian Holland and Lamont Dozier. But in the years leading up to that gold-standard partnership, Eddie was first a singer. He scored a few hits in the company’s formative years before the pressures of live performing – and songwriting’s promise of royalties – conspired to force his transition to composing.
- First Hit: “Jamie”
- Biggest Hit: “Jamie”
- Biggest Album: Eddie Holland
- Career Highlight: While his brother Brian and Lamont Dozier had begun a fruitful songwriting collaboration, Eddie noticed that lyric writing had slowed their productivity. He offered to speed up their process by becoming their lyricist and the result was the birth of the H-D-H team, who, as much as anyone, were responsible for “The Motown Sound” and whose success resulted in nearly 150 Motown chart hits in the U.S. – including 10 Number 1 hits with the Supremes – and 80 hits in Great Britain. With Brian and Lamont, Eddie is a member of both the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame.
- Born in 1939, Detroit native Eddie Holland grows up in the Motor City’s rich music scene. Although he’s interested in becoming an accountant and claims no musical ambition as a teenager, he accompanies a friend to an audition and is unexpectedly asked to sing himself. The audition ends with Eddie being referred to songwriter and aspiring music executive Berry Gordy and, since his vocals sound much like those of rising star Jackie Wilson, he is soon singing demos Berry has written for Wilson to record, including future hits “To Be Loved,” “Lonely Teardrops” and “I’ll Be Satisfied.”
- Gordy gets a deal with Chicago-based label Mercury, producing the single “Little Miss Ruby.” He follows it with “(Where’s The Joy) In Nature Boy” on the obscure Detroit label Kudo, for which Eddie is mysteriously credited as his younger brother “Briant” Holland. Each go nowhere.
- In early 1959, Eddie’s third single, recorded at Hitsville, is the second one ever released on Berry’s first label, Tamla, but “Merry-Go-Round” is only briefly a Motown product as it is leased to United Artists. His next three singles – “Because I Love Her,” “Magic Mirror” and “Why Do You Want To Let Me Go” – are all written and produced by Gordy at Hitsville but released on UA. None, however, make the charts.
- Holland’s follow-up in early April 1962, the string-laden “You Deserve What You Got,” becomes irrelevant when Motown releases a snappier single by Eddie a month later, “If Cleopatra Took A Chance.” Unfortunately, this “Cleopatra” doesn’t make much history.
- Motown releases his lone LP, Eddie Holland, around the time “Cleopatra” is released. He is also represented on the first Motown LP collecting various artist singles when “Jamie” is included – and featured in big type on the cover – on Motown Special, also released in May 1962.
- Notably, the first Holland-Dozier-Holland composition to be released, “Dearest One” by Lamont Dozier, is also recorded in the spring of 1962 and comes out in May on Motown’s short-lived Mel-o-dy label.
- Holland’s next single release, “If It’s Love (It’s Alright),” comes out in August and is taken from his LP. While it sounds much closer to his hit sound from “Jamie,” it does not duplicate that success, although it does make the Cash Box R&B singles chart for one week, reaching Number 50. It is the only other Eddie Holland single released in the U.K.
- Eddie’s first crack at an H-D-H song results in his next single, “Darling, I Hum Our Song,” released in December 1962. While not a hit, it would later be covered as popular B-sides by both Martha & the Vandellas and the Four Tops. The B-side of the original, entitled “Just A Few More Days,” was perhaps the first Eddie Holland solo composition, which were rarities.
- Just as Jackie Wilson’s “Baby Workout” is starting its climb to the top of the R&B chart in early ’63, Berry writes an up-tempo number for Eddie in the same groove, trying to get him back on the chart. “Baby Shake” doesn’t do the trick but it does get Eddie in a different bag, after a run of midtempo and ballad releases, pointing to future success. The B-side, “Brenda,” is later covered by the Four Tops.
- Another solo Eddie composition, the stomping “I’m On The Outside Looking In,” not to be confused a Little Anthony & The Imperials hit with the same title, is released in the fall of ’63 and, undeservedly, does not chart. The song is originally intended for new Motown signing Sammy Turner, whose “Lavender Blue” had been a big hit in ’59, but he never got to it.
- Released in December ’63, the rocking H-D-H composition “Leaving Here” returns Eddie to the charts, at Number 27 R&B, Number 76 Pop. It is probably the most-covered of all Eddie Holland releases, especially favored in the U.K. where Ron Wood’s first group, the Birds (not to be confused with the US group, the Byrds), the Who, Motorhead and the Bugs all have some success with it. In the U.S., the Rationals, Pearl Jam and Tinsley Ellis also record it. The Isley Brothers do a strong version for Motown that initially sees a U.K.-only LP release.
- Although he’s getting more involved in songwriting and dislikes performing, Eddie starts to have consistent hits. His “Leaving Here” follow-up, H-D-H’s “Just Ain’t Enough Love,” also charts (Number 31 R&B, Number 54 Pop). The song re-emerges as covered by the Isley Brothers This Old Heart Of Mine LP and the B-side of their single “Got To Have You Back.”
- H-D-H’s “Candy To Me” becomes the third consecutive hit for Eddie in mid-’64, reaching Number 29 R&B and Number 58 Pop. The B-side, “If You Don’t Want My Love,” later becomes a celebrated B-side for the Four Tops. But Eddie Holland has had enough of performing and shuts down his Motown recording career to focus on writing with his brother and Lamont Dozier, plus the occasional collaboration with Norman Whitfield.
- All of Eddie’s singles and a host of unreleased tracks were anthologized by the U.K.’s Ace Records in 2012 on a 2-CD set, It Moves Me: The Complete Recordings 1958-1964.