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Motown producer sentenced on tax violation

‘Grapevine’ co-writer sentenced to six months home detention
/ Source: Reuters

Leading Motown Records producer Norman Whitfield, who co-wrote such R&B classics as “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” was sentenced Monday to six months of home detention for failure to file U.S. income tax returns.

Whitfield admitted in a guilty plea in January that he had deliberately neglected to report to the Internal Revenue Service more than $4 million in songwriting royalties he earned from 1995 through 1999.

He originally was charged with five counts of willful failure to file an income tax return, a misdemeanor that carries up to a year in prison.

But Whitfield pleaded guilty to a single count under an agreement with federal prosecutors and made restitution on the $956,000 in taxes he owed the government, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Kwan.

U.S. District Judge Stephen Wilson agreed to allow the 65-year-old songwriter to serve his six months of incarceration under home confinement, rather than in prison, after doctors confirmed that Whitfield suffered from a kidney ailment and other health problems, Kwan said.

Whitfield will be placed on probation for a year after his home detention is completed.

The Grammy-winning hit-maker was inducted last year into the Songwriters Hall of Fame along with lyricist Barrett Strong, his longtime collaborator at Motown.

The New York-born Whitfield, who ended up in Detroit as a teenager in the 1960s after his father’s car broke down there, is widely credited as an architect of the Motown Sound and pioneer of the sub-genre of R&B that came to be known as ”psychedelic soul.”

A member of Motown founder Berry Gordy’s “quality control department,” which decided which songs the label released, Whitfield served as the principal producer for The Temptations from 1966 until 1974.

He co-wrote and produced such hits “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg,” “Cloud Nine,” “I Can’t Get Next to You” and “Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me).”

But he is perhaps best known for his work with Strong on “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” which was first released by Gladys Knight & the Pips before Marvin Gaye turned it into a blockbuster hit for Motown in December 1968.

Whitfield left Motown in 1975 to form his own label, Whitfield Records, which scored a smash hit with Rose Royce’s “Car Wash,” the title song to the 1976 film that featured Richard Pryor and the Pointer Sisters.