Motown writer and producer Frank Wilson, who produced records for performers including The Supremes, Marvin Gaye and The Temptations but may be best known for a single featuring his voice that became an underground sensation in Britain, died in Southern California Sept. 27, his family said. He was 71.
One of Wilson’s daughters, Tracey Stein, confirmed her father’s death from complications from a lung infection, to The Los Angeles Times.
Born Frank Edward Wilson on Dec. 5, 1940, he was the third of six children of James Wilson and the former Samantha Gibbs, of Houston. Wilson learned to play the piano by ear from his mother, a domestic, and sang with his uncles’ group, the Gibbs Five.
After doing an 18-month stint at the Southern University of Baton Rouge, Wilson headed to Los Angeles to pursue a career in music.
He joined Motown in 1964, working out of the label’s West Coast outpost. He helped produce Stevie Wonder’s hit, “Castles in the Sand.” He also wrote or co-wrote records such as “Love Child" for Diana Ross and the Supremes, "Chained" for Marvin Gaye and "All I Need" and “Keep on Trucking (Part I)” for the Temptations.
Perhaps his greatest professional coup, however, was the popularity gained by his unreleased single, “Do I Love You (Indeed I Do),” which somehow made it across the Atlantic and became a huge hit in the United Kingdom. So prized was the song that a rare copy sold in 2009 for $39,294, making it the most expensive music single ever sold at auction, according to Guinness World Records.
“I was unaware that this record still existed,” Wilson told the British press in 2001, according to the Times. “A Motown boss ordered all the masters to be destroyed. Somehow, a copy surfaced in Britain. I consider it one of my life’s great achievements.”
In 1976, the Baptist-raised Wilson, whose maternal grandfather and several uncles were ministers, left the music business to become a pastor. He had recognized a “huge spiritual void” in his life that he was determined to fill, he told The Cleveland Plain Dealer in 1995.
“I just had a one-track mind and that was making the next number one record,” Wilson told the Dealer. “It took God to make me realize there was more to life than music.”
Wilson attended Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, served as a personal pastor to Motown and other Hollywood entertainers and, in 2004, founded the Christian fellowship, New Dawn Christian Village, in downtown Los Angeles.
Wilson is survived by his wife of 42 years, P. Bunny Wilson; six children; six grandchildren; a sister; and three brothers.
Funeral services are scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Oct. 5 at Faithful Central Bible Church's Tabernacle, 321 N. Eucalyptus Ave., Inglewood, Calif.