SOCAN is lamenting the loss of SOCAN member and singer-songwriter R. Dean Taylor, who passed away Jan. 7, 2022, at his longtime home in Los Angeles, at the age of 82. He had reportedly been hospitalized with COVID-19 a year ago, but returned home after two weeks, and stayed there ever since, under hospice care.
Taylor is best known for co-writing The Supremes’ 1968 No. 1 song “Love Child” – which was inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2008 – and writing and performing his own international 1970 classic smash hit “Indiana Wants Me,” which made him first white artist in the history of Motown Records to reach No. 1 in the U.S. As a staff writer at Motown, he also co-wrote “I’m Living In Shame” by The Supremes, “All I Need” by The Temptations, “I’ll Turn To Stone” by The Four Tops, and “Just Look What You’ve Done” by Brenda Holloway.
Born and raised in Toronto, Richard Dean Taylor first started singing at the age of 12, performing at various open-air Country & Western shows in the area. In 1960, his first record, “At the High School Dance,” earned airplay on Toronto’s CHUM radio, and across Canada. He appeared on a CBC dance party TV show, started playing local clubs, and briefly toured in the U.S. A trip to New York City in 1962 resulted in four songs, distributed on the AMY- MALA label.
In 1963, a friend from Detroit called and said he could arrange an audition with a then-up-and-coming record company, Motown Records. Taylor met with Brian Holland and Lamont Dozier – of Motown’s top producing team, Holland-Dozier-Holland – who liked his material and got him signed as a staff songwriter and artist for the label. Taylor and Eddie Holland would sit for hours together, tossing song ideas back and forth, and coming up with the lyrics for many of the Holland-Dozier-Holland hits.
“Eddie was a fantastic writer, and I really learned a lot from working with him,” said Taylor on his website. “I wanted to learn everything I could about producing, and started playing tambourine on the Holland-Dozier-Holland sessions. I played on most of their records, like ‘Standing In the Shadows of Love,’ ‘Reach Out I’ll Be There,’ and many more… Watching Holland-Dozier-Holland produce, and playing with those great musicians now referred to as The Funk Brothers, was more than I could have ever hoped for.”
In 1965, Taylor recorded his own subtle anti-war song, “Let’s Go Somewhere,” and in 1966, “There’s A Ghost In My House.” Motown was more focused on promoting its established acts, so there was little action for the singles in the U.S. But in 1970 in England, a club DJ started playing “There’s A Ghost In My House,” other dance clubs followed, Motown U.K. released it as a single, and it hit the top of the charts in England and throughout Europe. “Gotta See Jane,” written in 1967, became another English hit.
In 1970, Taylor recorded “Indiana Wants Me,” which he always felt would be a hit record. Two radio stations broke the record in the U.S., and this time Motown supported Taylor on a promotional tour to radio stations and TV appearances in Michigan, creating a regional hit, which then went national, and then global. “Indiana Wants Me” became a million-selling song, and climbed to No. 1 on the U.S. charts, making R. Dean Taylor the first white artist in the history of Motown to do so. The song was featured in the opening moments of the 1980 movie, The Ninth Configuration, and is known and loved around the world.
“Gotta See Jane” was re-issued in 1971, and became a Top 10 hit in Canada. Taylor established his own record company, Jane Records, in 1973, but continued working as a writer/producer at Motown until 1976. He attempted a comeback during the early 1980s, after which he went on a hiatus from the music industry. He later built a recording studio at his home in Los Angeles, and worked on an as-yet-unpublished memoir of his time at Motown. His songs continue to receive worldwide airplay, and have been covered by several artists.
SOCAN extends its condolences to Taylor’s wife of 52 years, Janee, as well as his extended family, friends, and fans of his songs throughout the world.