Deke Richards, the songwriter and producer who was responsible for many hits for the Jackson 5 during the Motown Era, passed away on Sunday after a battle with esophageal cancer. The Detroit News reported that the Motown producer died in his hospital bed in Washington State at age 68. Here’s what you need to know about this Motown legend.
1. He Had Esophageal Cancer
Deke Richards succumbed to a long battle with esophageal cancer at the time of his death and was in a hospital in Bellingham, Washington.
2. He Will Have a Private Funeral
There will be a private funeral taking place among Deke’s closest family and friends. Instead of sending flowers, the family asks that people visit the HAL Awards website and help sponsor music education.
3. He Was Part of Two Songwriting Teams
Deke Richards was a notable member of two major songwriting teams: The Clan and The Corporation. While working with The Clan, Deke was responsible for making hit singles for Diana Ross and the Supremes like “Love Child” and “I’m Livin’ in Shame” in the late 1960s. After the team disbanded, Deke later joined the four-member team The Corporation, which was backed by Motown label head Berry Gordy.
4. He Was Responsible for the Jackson 5’s Success
Since joining The Corporation, Deke Richards and his fellow members went big after producing many songs for the group the Jackson 5. The team wrote and produced numerous hits for the Michael Jackson-led group including “I Want You Back”, “ABC”, “Mama’s Pearl”, and “Maybe Tomorrow”. In the studio with the Jackson 5, Richards recalled when he had to be more of a teacher to them than a producer. He remembered when a young Michael Jackson always wanted to perform in front of the mic, realizing the star that the King of Pop would become. “I feel honored to have worked with a person like Michael who was a true genius,” he said after Michael’s sudden death in 2009.
5. He Worked with Other Motown Artists
Deke Richards was also involved in the careers of many other artists during the Motown years. Besides the Jackson 5, other artists he has worked with include Martha and the Vandellas, Bobby Darin, The Blackberries, and Stacie Johnson.
6. He Was Still Involved in Music During His Final Years
After leaving Motown in 1975, the songwriter never found much success afterwards. Even after the end of Motown, Deke Richards was still involved in music in a sense according to the Rolling Stone. Deke continued making memorabilia from his Motown days when he helped produce a 2012 Jackson 5 rarities box called Come and Get It: The Rare Pearls. He was also in talks with Jackie Jackson in reuniting with his brothers on an unnamed project. His final piece of work was mixing eight unreleased tracks by Martha and the Vandellas for the band’s 50th anniversary box set, which will be released on April 5.
7. He Played Back-up For Debbie Dean
Before being a successful songwriter, Deke Richards played in a band with solo artist Debbie Dean. He wrote his first song for her and was recognized for his work after he met with Berry Gordy in 1966. Gordy was very impressed with his work that he offered Deke to work for him as a songwriter and record producer, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
8. His Father Was a Screenwriter
A Los Angeles native, Deke’s father Dane Lussier was well known in Hollywood as a screenwriter writing for films like Dick Tracy vs. Cueball and The Lady Wants Mink. His father’s worked inspired Deke Richards to have a hobby for film memorabilia to continue his love of movies by creating the site PosterPalace, which collects vintage movie posters.
9. He Appeared in the Film Eegah
Deke Richards, whose real name was Dennis Lussier, had a love for movies that he ended up having a small part for the prehistoric film Eegah in 1962. In the Richard Kiel starrer, Deke had a role as one of the band members in the film.
10. He is Survived By His Wife
Deke Richards is survived by his wife Joan Lussier, his brother Dane and two nephews, Chris and Cory.