The quality goes in before the name goes on
. Holland-Dozier-Holland was a brand name
, of sorts. Brothers Brian and Eddie Holland, and Lamont Dozier, now members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
. The Hollands were singers at first, and had worked with Berry Gordy
even before Motown
was started, so they got in on the ground floor. Dozier was an early Motown recording artist.
The actual H-D-H songwriting and production team came together in 1963, and lasted less than five years in its original form; a not-uncommon dispute with Gordy over royalties led them to go to court to win their freedom; they left and started their own label, Invictus/Hot Wax, the Invictus imprint distributed by Capitol Records, Hot Wax by Buddah Records.
Due to the lawsuit(s) with Gordy, it would be a few more years before they regained the right to compose under the H-D-H name, so they became full-time producers and executives. One early Invictus signing: Funkadelic, no strangers to lawsuits; they signed up under their old/new name of Parliament while still signed (as Funkadelic) to Westbound. The Artists Formerly Known As The Parliaments were fellow Motown refugees.
At Invictus, H-D-H produced a classic or two, including Freda Payne's "Band of Gold", The Honey Comb's "Want Ads", and Chairman of the Board's beach music chestnut "Give Me Just a Little More Time".
As much as the efforts of Gordy and Smokey, et al, H-D-H defined "The Sound of Young America", and made "Hitsville U.S.A." more than just a shallow boast. Years after they were written, some of their songs became hits for others, like James Taylor, Phil Collins, Soft Cell, and The Carpenters, while bands like The Who and The Jam just recorded 'em because Pete Townshend and Paul Weller loved the stuff - you can't have "Maximum R&B" without the R&B, after all. The tunes have also made their way into TV commercials over the years. There's no room to list all their Motown material, but here's a sampling:
The Four Tops
(songs by Eddie Holland & Norman Whitfield)
Martha and the Vandellas