Ivy Jo Hunter, writer-producer and stalwart of Classic Motown Era, dies at 82
Ivy Jo Hunter, the songwriter and producer closely associated with the first classic period of Motown Records, died on Thursday (6) at the age of 82.
Perhaps his best-known copyright was Martha and the Vandellas’ ageless “Dancing In The Street,” which he co-wrote with Marvin Gaye and William “Mickey” Stevenson, but Hunter was also the co-creator of countless other vintage songs by Gaye, the Four Tops, the Temptations, the Isley Brothers, the Contours, and others. He was described in The Complete Motown Singles Volume 10 as “another quiet Motown hero.”
George Ivy Hunter was born on August 28, 1940 in Detroit, and came to Motown after he was seen by writer-producer Henry Cosby, when Hunter was producing and arranging shows at the Motor City’s Phelps Lounge. He went on to work closely with Stevenson, not only a key Motown writer and producer himself but the company’s head of A&R.
The pair wrote the Four Tops’ towering 1965 entry “Ask The Lonely,” the Spinners’ “Truly Yours,” the Velvelettes’” “I’ll Keep Holding On,” the Contours’ “Can You Jerk Like Me,” and others, often also co-producing the sessions. Hunter teamed with other collaborators on many other Motown favourites, including with Stevie Wonder on the Tops’ “Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever”; Vernon Bullock, Jack Goga, and Pam Sawyer on their “Yesterday’s Dreams”; and Beatrice Verdi on the Isley Brothers’ “Behind A Painted Smile,” also producing or co-producing many of his own songs.
In 2019, he said of his style: “If I got a chance to work with an artist, I was not looking for ‘the Motown Sound.’ I took that artist somewhere else. You weren’t going to get a ‘My Guy’ out of me.” He went on: “I never did the same song twice. I just did what came naturally. I’d studied poetry and poetic meter and I knew how to work vocabulary and create rhymes to tell the story.”
He continued to write, produce, and play on Motown releases throughout the 1960s, finally gaining a single release in his own right, billed as Ivy Jo and on the V.I.P. label, with the 1970 ballad (and Detroit-area hit) “I Remember When (Dedicated to Beverly).” It came from sessions for a planned but unreleased LP called Ivy Jo Is In This Bag. There was another single, “I’d Still Love You,” in 1971, the year he left Motown.
Hunter also contributed to Funkadelic’s self-titled debut album in 1970 and, ten years, later, co-produced an album for Wee Gee, aka William Howard, former frontman with the Dramatics. It included the minor R&B chart entry “Hold On (To Your Dream),” which became a favourite featured track at graduation ceremonies.