Saturday, October 16, 2021

Sylvia Moy: Motown’s First Female Record Producer Passes

stevie wonder & sylvia moy
Stevie Wonder and Sylvia Moy

[Note: Before her passing (which was announced today / 04-19-17), I did a phone interview with Ms. Moy in 2015. She said she had just moved back to her family home, and her computer was not set up for her to receive the resulting article for her approval. This story is based on our conversation.]

There was a time during the Motown “Heyday” that you could not say Stevie Wonder without saying Sylvia Moy. She’s mentioned briefly on page 226 of Motown founder Berry Gordy’s autobiography “To Be Loved,” but there is so much more of her story that will be revealed in her forthcoming book.

History records that Moy was the first official Motown female record producer/songwriter even before Valerie Simpson of the magnificent hit-making duo Ashford & Simpson.

In his book Gordy says, “I was excited that hits were coming fast on a lot of our artists, but I was worried about Stevie Wonder. He hadn’t had a hit since “Fingertips” almost three years before…he was an adolescent and his voice was beginning to change…we were trying to get a hit on him before that happened.” Moy recalls that during a company meeting while all the other artists were being assigned to the various producers, Wonder was not. She asked and got assigned to Wonder by A&R Director Mickey Stevenson. It was an eleventh hour deal that perhaps saved Wonder from being just another one-hit-wonder.

Moy, who still resides in the family home in northwest Detroit, says she at first felt a little intimidated and tearfully told her father about it. He wisely told her to pray and remember that nobody there at Motown was bigger than God.

When Moy met with Wonder she asked to hear the songs he was working on, and with the help of producer Hank Cosby the song “Uptight (Everything’s Alright)” was born. During the recording session, Moy sang into Wonder’s earphones from the control room ahead of the track. She says “He didn’t miss a beat!” “Uptight” was perfect for Wonder’s voice that changed for the better. It placed him at the top of the charts, and solidified his place among Motown’s finest.

In addition to her music studies, Moy also sang Opera and was a soloist for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. She also studied a lot of French which influenced one of Wonder’s signature songs “My Cherie Amour.” She says, “That song was recorded long before it was released. It was the “B” side of “Don’t Know Why” which wasn’t doing too well. A DJ began playing the “B” side, and the rest was history.”

Sylvia 2

In 2006 Moy was inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame. She continues to write and produce music at her Detroit-based studio. For a complete list of this legendary songwriter’s catalogue please look up Sylvia Moy Discography online.

Here are the lyrics to the song Stevie dedicated to her called “Sylvia” from his 1966 Down To Earth album:

“Sylvia”

Whoa, oh, oh, yeah
Mmm, hmm Sylvia
You know you’re getting to me now
Mmm, mmm, mmm, Sylvia
You gently touched my heart somehow

Yesterday you made me happy as a child at play
Just like the summer sun that warms my heart
And move on, now you are gone

Whoa, oh, oh, Sylvia
You’re everything that I adore
That sweet song, that caught a spark in me more
Tenderly that’s how you whisper that you loved me
As if a raindrop kissed my ear and disappeared, now you are gone

Oh, oh, oh, yeah
You know I love my little Sylvia

Whoa, oh, oh, yeah
And yesterday I feel in love with you all the way
Tenderly you lit a spark in my heart, now you are gone

Mmm, hmm, Sylvia
I gently miss Sylvia
I’m crazy ’bout ya, Sylvia
You know I love my little Sylvia

“My Cherie Amour”

Final funeral arrangements for Ms. Moy”

Public Viewing – Friday, April 21st 9AM – 8PM; Swanson Funeral Home; 14751 W. McNichols Rd.; Detroit, MI; Phone: (313) 272-9000

Family Hour – Saturday, April 22nd, 2:30PM; Greater Grace Cathedral; 23500 W. Seven Mile Rd.; Detroit, MI

Funeral – Saturday, April 22nd, 3:30PM at Greater Grace Cathedral

larry buford (headshot)
Larry Buford

Larry Buford is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer. Author of “Things Are Gettin’ Outta Hand” (Steuben Pub) www.amazon.com.  E-mail: [email protected]    Visit the author at www.larrybuford.com. (213) 220-8101

Larry Bufordhttp://www.editorialbylarry.com
Larry Buford is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer, and author of Book/CD titled "Things Are Gettin' Outta Hand" (Steuben Pub.) www.amazon.com. He writes Human Interest articles and entertainment reviews for various newspapers across the country. He is also an editor, and provides services for press releases, interviews, business letters, resumes, etc. A native Detroiter, he is a former Motown songwriter.

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