Deke Richards

Deke Richards, the Motown producer who co-wrote the Jackson 5’s first three #1 hit records has died at age 68.

CBS News reports that Richards died Sunday at a hospice in Bellingham, Washington, following a lengthy battle with esophageal cancer.

Berry Gordy, founder of Motown Records, appointed Richards and 2 other talented songwriters, Fonce Mizell and Freddie Perren, to craft hits for the Jackson 5 who were signed to the record label in 1968. Richards, Mizell, Perren and Gordy dubbed themselves “The Corporation”.

Together they were responsible for giving the Jackson 5 the biggest hits of their careers, including number 1 hits “I Want You Back,” “ABC,” and “The Love You Save.”

He also wrote “Love child” for Diana Ross and The Supremes.

For his last music project — a collection of rare Motown singles titled Jackson 5 Come and Get It: The Rare Pearls — Richards recalled the first time he saw a 10-year-old Michael Jackson perform with his brothers at a Motown meet and greet.

“My jaw dropped to the floor. I didn’t know how else to respond to seeing Frankie Lymon, James Brown and Jackie Wilson portrayed by the same little cat at the same time… If you ever heard a young entertainer sing his or her heart out once in your life, I don’t care who it was and where it happened, I guarantee you: the experience was nothing like the night I saw Michael Jackson and his four brothers. When the performance was over, everyone knew they had just witnessed something very special; something just short of a miracle, and as close as you can come to a phenomenon.