Deke Richards, a Motown songwriter-producer responsible for hits such as “I Want You Back” and “Maybe Tomorrow,” died Sunday at the Whatcom Hospice House in Bellingham, Washington. He was 68.
A statement from Universal Music said Richards, whose real name was Dennis Lussier, had been battling esophageal cancer.
A Los Angeles native, Richard got his shot at stardom while in a band that backed singer Debbie Dean, one of only a few white artists at Motown at the time.
After penning a song for Dean, the two met with Motown founder Berry Gordy when The Supremes came to play the Hollywood Palace in 1966.
Gordy and Richards would team up with Alphonzo Mizell and Freddie Perren to form The Corporation, a group responsible for the writing, production and arranging of The Jackson 5 number-one hit singles including: “I Want You Back,” “ABC,” “The Love You Save”; as well as for other Jackson 5 singles such as “Mama’s Pearl” and “Maybe Tomorrow.”
Richards also co-wrote Diana Ross and The Supremes hit song “Love Child” and Ross’ solo song “I’m Still Waiting,” in addition to working with such artists as Bobby Darin and Bonnie Bramlett.
During his later years in life, Richards worked on several projects, including the Jackson 5’s Come And Get It: The Rare Pearls, a multi-disc album released in 2012 which featured rare and unreleased tracks by the group.
His final project was mixing eight unreleased tracks by Martha Reeves & the Vandellas for the forthcoming box set 50th Anniversary: The Singles 1962-1972.
Richards is survived by his wife, Joan Lussier, a brother and two nephews, Chris Lussier and Cory Lussier.
CNN notes a private family event to celebrate Deke’s life has been arranged.
In lieu of flowers, his family asks colleagues in music industry to support music education by donating via the HAL awards’ site.