Cornelius Grant served as the Temptations musical director for nearly 20 years, traveling all over the world with the best male vocal group in the world. Grant was born April 27, 1943. At age nine, he…
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Cornelius Grant Biography

by Andrew Hamilton

Cornelius Grant served as the Temptations musical director for nearly 20 years, traveling all over the world with the best male vocal group in the world. Grant was born April 27, 1943. At age nine, he taught himself the guitar on one picked from a Sears & Roebuck catalog. Things got boring in Fairfield, TX, the small dusty town 80 miles south of Dallas where he grew up, and practicing the guitar eased the doldrums. He wanted a piano, but grannie's pockets weren't that deep, so he settled on a guitar. Work in Southern Texas was menial but paid the bills. His grandmother cleaned houses, ironed, pulled ragweed, and spread manure, so his guitar payments didn't pose a problem. Learning to play, however, did. With no teachers around, Grant had to teach himself. Three years later, the family moved to the westside of Detroit and his life did a 360. He took to Detroit like a baby to ice cream. At 15, he held his own with Detroits' best, and the best guitarists who came to the Motor City, though he was still a full-time student at Mumford High. He played clubs, bars, talent shows, and other functions. It took nine years, but by the time Grant graduated from Mumford he had developed some serious skills. He played behind Mary Wells, then Marvin Gaye before settling with the Temptations. Grant used a Gibson Birdland and a Fender Telecaster playing with or without a pick depending on the desired effect. He created that murderous opening guitar riff on "I Know I'm Losing You" using a Goya acoustic guitar. He wrote the blockbuster with Eddie Holland and Norman Whitfield, and "You're My Everything" with the late Roger Penzabene and Whitfield. Penzabene, a close friend of Grant's, wrote "I Wish It Would Rain" and "I Could Never Love Another." Penzabene went crazy and committed suicide before he received a royalty check. "I Could Never Love Another (After Loving You)" tells that story in a nutshell. Grant also wrote "Take Me in Your Arms and Love Me" and "Ain't No Sun (Since You Been Gone)" (performed by Gladys Knight & the Pips); "You Got to Earn It," and "I Got to Find a Way to Win You Back" (performed by the Temptations); and "My Weakness Is You" and "I Want My Baby Back" (performed by Edwin Starr); Lula recorded "Take Me in Your Arms " on her To Sir with Love LP. Grant also co-wrote "I'm More Than Happy (I'm Satisfied)" for Stevie Wonder, and "Love and Affection" for Marvin Gaye.

He was a partner in D.O.C. Productions with Melvin Franklin (aka David English and Otis Williams). "D.O.C." was an acronym for David, Otis, and Cornelius. The company produced two acts: Swiss Movement and Quiet Elegance. Grant's writing technique varied, but he became famous for coming up with stunning riffs. Producer Norman Whitfield heard Grant playing fifths, which became the intro to "I Know I'm Losing You." Whitfield developed the chord structure and Eddie Holland supplied lyrics. Grant played on select Motown studio sessions' from 1964 to 1970, including Gladys Knight & the Pips chart-busting "I Heard It Through the Grapevine." As a rule, Grant played on all the sessions that featured songs he co-wrote, except one, "You Got to Earn It," which Smokey Robinson cut while Grant was on the road with the Temptations.

Grant disliked the isolation of studio work, preferring the feedback and immediate gratification of live gigs.Travels took him around the world playing before screaming fans in the Pacific, the Caribbean, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. They were guests at the White House courtesy of Tricia Nixon Eisenhower. Grant also met Rev. Martin Luther King, Jesse Jackson, Elton John, and the Beatles, and appeared on many television shows. He is the Chief Executive of Siege, an entertainment complex that manages and develops new artists. He's writing a tell-all about his Temptations' years, and lectures with alumni of Motown on a forum formed to discuss the realities of the music business. He teaches guitar at a city college and has written a book entitled Cornelius Grant's Guitar for Beginners, which includes a tutorial guide to help budding guitarists duplicate the Motown Sound. He founded W.A.R.M. (World Academy of Recording Musicians) an organization to help studio and road musicians gain recognition for their contributions.

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