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  1. #1
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    Who Is Norman Whitfield's SUPERSTAR?

    from wiki:

    The song "Superstar [[Remember How You Got Where You Are)" had begun its life as a song Whitfield and lyricist Barrett Strong were writing about one of Whitfield's former friends, a producer whom Whitfield thought had become too standoffish after achieving success.[4][5] By the time the song was completed and being recorded by the Temptations, however, Otis Williams had had it reworked so that it was "about David [Ruffin] and Eddie [Kendricks]"[4][5]
    Anyone know/guess who the friend /producer was that Norman and Barrett had written about ??

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    I had always heard it was about David Ruffin. But I wonder if it could be Eddie Holland. He and Whitfield wrote a bunch of songs together before Whitfield teamed up with Barrett Strong.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SatansBlues View Post
    I had always heard it was about David Ruffin. But I wonder if it could be Eddie Holland. He and Whitfield wrote a bunch of songs together before Whitfield teamed up with Barrett Strong.
    It's just speculation but you might be right about Eddie Holland being the original subject of The Tempts' "Superstar [Remember How You Got Where You Are]". After all he did leave Motown Records [along with his Brother Brian & Lamont Dozier] to start his own company and it may be Norman's comment on that.

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    I never really thought the song made that much sense being about David Ruffin. I mean, it does touch on his general egotism, but The Tempts were the ones that fired him back in 1968 and his solo career wasnít exactly superstardom-level. And then he recorded the song himself with Norman in 1974, which I always thought was strange if it was supposed to be about him.

    It works more being about Eddie Kendricks as he had recently quit to pursue a solo career. BUT it makes even more sense being about someone else entirely, then reworked to fit David/Eddie.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Motown Eddie View Post
    It's just speculation but you might be right about Eddie Holland being the original subject of The Tempts' "Superstar [Remember How You Got Where You Are]". After all he did leave Motown Records [along with his Brother Brian & Lamont Dozier] to start his own company and it may be Norman's comment on that.
    Just remembered something; Norman Whitfield did the same thing that Eddie Holland did. He would leave Motown Records in the mid 70s and set up his own label [Whitfield Records] just as the Hollands did when they set up Invictus/Hot Wax.

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    Yes why would Whitfield begrudge Holland for doing what he would also do himself.
    Maybe he approached HDH to take him with them when they set up their own shingle Ö.
    Or maybe itís not about the leaving of Motown - Good riddance - and more about what took place between them while they were still at Motown together. or maybe it was somebody else entirely, a different producer?

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    Don’t know when Otis made his comments?
    But he might have tossed David into the equation just to couch how direct it actually was toward Eddie. Eddie is the one who blew them off just before the song came out.
    David tried to get back in didn’t he? He left unwillingly so don’t see why the group would need to bat him around in some petty song.
    Last edited by Boogiedown; 01-23-2022 at 03:16 PM.

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    My guess it was a jab at Frank Wilson, whom Norman helped groom to become the successful producer he was at that time. Especially since he was working with Eddie Kendricks on his solo material.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jboy88 View Post
    My guess it was a jab at Frank Wilson, whom Norman helped groom to become the successful producer he was at that time. Especially since he was working with Eddie Kendricks on his solo material.
    I like this guess , the key clue being 'a producer' - singular, not aimed at what would've been identified as a certain group of producers ... HDH .....or, why the grudge against Eddie H specifically??
    Last edited by Boogiedown; 01-24-2022 at 01:54 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Boogiedown View Post
    Donít know when Otis made his comments?
    But he might have tossed David into the equation just to couch how direct it actually was toward Eddie. Eddie is the one who blew them off just before the song came out.
    David tried to get back in didnít he? He left unwillingly so donít see why the group would need to bat him around in some petty song.
    Exactly Boogie! Although the song fits David's superstar-sized ego, it seems to be more relevant to Eddie who actually left on his own accord.
    Last edited by TomatoTom123; 01-24-2022 at 09:54 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jboy88 View Post
    My guess it was a jab at Frank Wilson, whom Norman helped groom to become the successful producer he was at that time. Especially since he was working with Eddie Kendricks on his solo material.
    This could definitely be it, especially the link with Eddie Kendricks. I guess it was almost like Frank had poached one of Norman's singers!! Does anyone know if they actually fell out?

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    Does it HAVE to apply to any Motowner?
    I don't think Frank Wilson would be regarded as a "Superstar" by any stretch of the imagination [[ outside of Motown).

    The sung was a massive hit from the Musical Jesus Christ Superstar.
    The word Superstar was used by many media outlets. In the UK we had a sports quiz called Superstars.
    Maybe, just maybe, Whitfield jumped on the topical bandwagon.
    Last edited by snakepit; 01-24-2022 at 11:59 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by snakepit View Post
    Does it HAVE to apply to any Motowner?
    I don't think Frank Wilson would be regarded as a "Superstar" by any stretch of the imagination [[ outside of Motown).

    The sung was a massive hit from the Musical Jesus Christ Superstar.
    The word Superstar was used by many media outlets. In the UK we had a sports quiz called Superstars.
    Maybe, just maybe, Whitfield jumped on the topical bandwagon.
    .

    I think this, too!v

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    Quote Originally Posted by snakepit View Post
    Does it HAVE to apply to any Motowner?
    I don't think Frank Wilson would be regarded as a "Superstar" by any stretch of the imagination [[ outside of Motown).

    The sung was a massive hit from the Musical Jesus Christ Superstar.
    The word Superstar was used by many media outlets. In the UK we had a sports quiz called Superstars.
    Maybe, just maybe, Whitfield jumped on the topical bandwagon.

    I kinda prefer that notion. It would probably be in my Top Ten of odd singles put out by Motown. A lot of trouble to air in-house dirty laundry......bitter and pointless is bad enough, making it not a very enjoyable listen , but to be jabbing at somebody specifically and publicly.... a lot of bother and wasted energy that could've gone into a more upbeat vibe....

    Hmmmm ......so is it SMILING FACES part 2 ?? Who is that song referencing !!!

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    Probably no one .....just cashing in on current themes. It's what pop music does.
    late 60s...."I love you " songs sounded dated. You needed to SAY something.

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    wasn't Eddie K known for his relentless/ appealing smile? part of his persona ..

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    Van McCoy had " Finger pointers" out ......
    Dramatics....WYSIWYG...."Some people are made of plastic etc"...
    Just a Trend

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    which one started it

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    Where did the idea that it was one of Norman's friends / a fellow producer come from? Is it from a reliable source?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Boogiedown View Post
    which one started it
    beyond my pay grade

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    Quote Originally Posted by TomatoTom123 View Post
    Where did the idea that it was one of Norman's friends / a fellow producer come from? Is it from a reliable source?
    I'd doubt it

  22. #22
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    The Wikipedia claim references Mark Ribowsky's 2010 book Ain't Too Proud To Beg: The Troubled Lives and Enduring Soul of The Temptations, and also the liner notes for the 2002 CD My Girl: The Best of The Temptations by Otis Williams and Harry Weigner.

    I have no idea what either source says however. So there could be some truth in it, or it could be nonsense!

    I guess itís just fun to guess

  23. #23
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    here's the Wikipedia article...so it must be true

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superstar_[[Remember_How_You_Got_Where_You_Are)

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    just seen a video of an interview with Eddie Kendricks...who claims he only ever met Berry Gordy 3 [[THREE times). REALLY?

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    I think we have one valued member here who knows for sure but is way too much of a gentleman to tell !

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    Quote Originally Posted by snakepit View Post
    here's the Wikipedia article...so it must be true

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supe...Where_You_Are)
    Heee! To be fair, the Wikipedia page is referenced by several sources, albeit sources I have no access to and cannot verify.

    Some further background from Wikipedia:

    Kendricks had continued his friendship with Ruffin following his firing in 1968,[3] and by mid-1971 was making public statements blaming his departure on his problems with Otis Williams and Melvin Franklin.[4] Kendricks pointed out the failure of "It's Summer", the first single not to feature Kendricks' vocals, as evidence that the group was faltering without him, and Ruffin told the press that he was considering starting a new singing group with Kendricks, then-current Temptations lead singer Dennis Edwards, and, once his health improved, Kendricks' good friend Paul Williams [[another founding member of the Temptations who was forced to quit the group in 1971 because of failing health).[4] Ruffin and Kendricks' statements did not please the rest of the group or Whitfield.

    This is from a Dennis Edwards interview with Tom Meros, and the Mark Ribowsky Temptations book.
    Last edited by TomatoTom123; 01-24-2022 at 06:44 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by snakepit View Post
    beyond my pay grade
    Free of charge:

    SMILING FACES by the Temptations was first released on their SKY LP in APRIL 1971.
    The Undisputed Truth version was released as a single May 13 1971
    WATCHA SEE IS WATCHA GET wasreleased in June of 1971
    FINGER POINTERS was 1975

    based on these examples

    and throw in BACKSTABBERS August 1972

    Whitfield wasn't following a current theme ...rather he created one ..

  28. #28
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    Boogiedown
    Yes it seems Norman & Barrett were in at beginning of that "trend"...thanks

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    Just thought of Gladys Knight &Pips " Keep an eye"...
    Lyrics include " A friend is an enemy you can't see"...1969?.
    So perhaps A & S gave Norman/Barrett the idea?

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    good call! I could see Norman honing in on that!

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    maybe ...

    1968:




    ...sort of same idea ....

  32. #32
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    Great lyrics on "Keep an eye".
    "The Devil's workshop is a busy place
    On top of evil there's an innocent face"

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    Ok,here's the real story...it was really about the[singin]bunny rabbits, after their hit[here comes peter cotton tail] ol peter retired but took all the royalties with him leaving bugs[his partner]in hot water with the investers[carrotts inc.]not to mention the group whose next single[rollin in the cotton patch]never saw the light of day with crusauder rabbit on lead..years later bugs met norman in l.a. And sold him him the song over a glass of carrot juice..the bunny rabbits are hoppin mad about it ot this day!!

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    Quote Originally Posted by arr&bee View Post
    Ok,here's the real story...it was really about the[singin]bunny rabbits, after their hit[here comes peter cotton tail] ol peter retired but took all the royalties with him leaving bugs[his partner]in hot water with the investers[carrotts inc.]not to mention the group whose next single[rollin in the cotton patch]never saw the light of day with crusauder rabbit on lead..years later bugs met norman in l.a. And sold him him the song over a glass of carrot juice..the bunny rabbits are hoppin mad about it ot this day!!
    Is this reliably sourced ar&b? I believe you, but others might not.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TomatoTom123 View Post
    Is this reliably sourced ar&b? I believe you, but others might not.
    ��——- heehee

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    Yes of course the Superstar theme was hot at this time, but why run with it in a negative way? Why this public admonishing , especially if it were made up of whole cloth and not meant to be aimed at anybody specifically.

    There seems to be a need for Norman to vent ...first SMILING FACES then SUPERSTAR......Norman is hot as a pistol right now , he's just given the Tempts a career defining #1 hit with JUST MY IMAGINATION , in spite of overcoming inner turmoils of Paul and David. And now Eddie wants to just WALK AWAY FROM it all. Not cool really, at least not to Norman.

    That's why its fairly obvious this snarky song would be mostly about him, so its surprising to read the claim that really the song emerged from being about someone else, an unnamed producer, ....written about the same time as SMILING FACES perhaps??
    Last edited by Boogiedown; 01-26-2022 at 01:52 PM.

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    Of course the story/theme of someone becoming famous and getting a swollen ego is a classic trope of storytelling.

    For all we know Whitfield caught that episode of The Brady Bunch where Marcia became a huge tempermental diva after being cast in the school play of Romeo and Juliet and that inspired him to write "Superstar".

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    My vote is for Marvin Gaye as Superstar. Whitfield had been producing Marvin for some time and gave him success with his productions. Then Marvin struck gold by changing his style and coming up with "What's Going On". One opinion of course.

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    Would Barrett Strong know the story behind the lyrics?

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    Quote Originally Posted by jboy88 View Post
    My guess it was a jab at Frank Wilson, whom Norman helped groom to become the successful producer he was at that time. Especially since he was working with Eddie Kendricks on his solo material.
    This is probably it. Frank and Norman go way back. Eddie dumps the Temptations and Frank right away jumps in to take on the task of making him a solo star.
    another Possibility could be R Dean Taylor.
    he’d gone from being part of the clan to hitting a top five song that he masterminded under his own name making him a seemingly instant superstar.
    Maybe Norman experienced a change in him.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mysterysinger View Post
    My vote is for Marvin Gaye as Superstar. Whitfield had been producing Marvin for some time and gave him success with his productions. Then Marvin struck gold by changing his style and coming up with "What's Going On". One opinion of course.
    it could be Marvin Gaye . At this point he fancied himself a producer , and the use of that reference could be to camouflage somewhat his actual identity. And Norman certainly handed marv one of his
    Biggest successes with GRAPEVINE, so it could be that Norm was experiencing a change in the superstar he helped shape.

    I can’t imagine why the tempts would be on board with recording a song slamming Marvin Gaye, so with a rewrite as if it bad mouthed Edie Kendricks instead , it suited them fine.

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    It could be any of these people LOL. Personally I feel as though itís more than just hopping on/starting a trendÖ the lyrics sound too specific and the song feels like itís come from a place of experienceÖ compared even to "Smiling Faces Sometimes", "Keep An Eye", "Backstabbers", "Plastic Man", etc.

    "Superstar" seems to have something more personal about itÖ whether thatís coming from Norman or The Tempts, and who its really intended for, however, I donít knowÖ

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    Quote Originally Posted by TomatoTom123 View Post
    It could be any of these people LOL. Personally I feel as though itís more than just hopping on/starting a trendÖ the lyrics sound too specific and the song feels like itís come from a place of experienceÖ compared even to "Smiling Faces Sometimes", "Keep An Eye", "Backstabbers", "Plastic Man", etc.

    "Superstar" seems to have something more personal about itÖ whether thatís coming from Norman or The Tempts, and who its really intended for, however, I donít knowÖ
    Or from Barrett Strong?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sotosound View Post
    Or from Barrett Strong?
    Or Barrett Strong indeed!

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    Some very interesting suggestions here.

    Being unimaginative I didn’t imagine any particular agenda here, I always thought the song was about no particular individual, but rather the all too common syndrome when fame takes off and super ego kicks in. An all too common, almost inevitable consequence of fame and fortune which Norman or for that matter, anyone involved in show business witnessed on numerous occasions and will be familiar with.

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    While we're on this sort of topic, I might as well ask if Marvin Gaye's "Try It Baby" was about anyone in particular.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 144man View Post
    While we're on this sort of topic, I might as well ask if Marvin Gaye's "Try It Baby" was about anyone in particular.
    .... or whose "Papa Was A Rolling Stone"?

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    Quote Originally Posted by MIKEW-UK View Post
    Some very interesting suggestions here.

    Being unimaginative I didn’t imagine any particular agenda here, I always thought the song was about no particular individual, but rather the all too common syndrome when fame takes off and super ego kicks in. An all too common, almost inevitable consequence of fame and fortune which Norman or for that matter, anyone involved in show business witnessed on numerous occasions and will be familiar with.

    Yes I didn't worry too much about it at the time . As a song concept, the general appeal of its message was rather limited, the record peaked at #18. Only reading later about what brought its writing to fruition, did it make sense for the concept to be sung by the Tempts. [their bitterness toward former members].

    It's this added tidbit ...that the song was originally about [?producer?] that adds to the intrigue.

    After its hit status waned, did The Tempts perform SUPERSTAR as a regular song in their concerts , did they keep it in their shows ongoing thereafter?


    Answer : yes

    Here's another possible Detroit friend/producer: Harvey Fuqua . He bailed from Motown seeking greener pastures at RCA around this time in 1971. He's a long shot in this horse race though.
    Last edited by Boogiedown; 02-04-2022 at 04:04 AM.

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    Perhaps it was the lady who was given praise for her Chilli lunches.

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    Cool

    Quote Originally Posted by snakepit View Post
    Perhaps it was the lady who was given praise for her Chilli lunches.
    snakepit, I don't think you arectaking this seriously

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