Deke Richards, the Motown producer and songwriter who wrote hit songs for the likes of The Jackson 5 and Diana Ross, died this past weekend at a hospice in Washington state. He was 68 years old.
Born in 1944 as Dennis Lussier, Deke Richards made a name for himself at Motown Records as the leader of “The Corporation,” the label’s in-house group of songwriters, arrangers, and producers. While he didn’t become as much of a household name as Berry Gordy, Richards’ fingerprints are all over some of the label’s most lasting hit songs. Richards was especially involved in the success of the Jackson 5, writing and producing their biggest hit, “I Want You Back.” Richards’ songwriting partners had originally intended to give the song to Gladys Knight & The Pips, but Richards was so enamored with the Jacksons’ live performance that he insisted they get the song instead. Richards remained deeply involved in the career of the young group, writing and producing their other hits like “ABC” and “The Love You Save.”
Aside from his work with the Jackson 5, Richards also wrote one of Diana Ross & The Supremes’ biggest hits, “Love Child.” he had also worked with Martha & The Vandellas, Bobby Darin, and Bonnie Bramlett.
Richards is survived by his wife Joan, his brother Dane, and his nephews Chris and Cory.