William “Mickey” Stevenson joined Motown in 1959 as its very first Head of A&R, responsible for building its roster of songwriters, musicians, and artists, writing hit songs, and producing its superstar roster. Notably, Stevenson is responsible for helping develop Marvin Gaye
, Stevie Wonder
, The Four Tops, and Martha Reeves. He was one of the principal architects of the “Motown Sound,” having personally assembled the “Funk Brothers,” Motown’s famous house band for most of the label’s timeless 1960’s hits. Stevenson also discovered many of Motown’s legendary songwriters, including Ron Miller, George Ivy “Jo” Hunter, Norman Whitfield
, and Frederick “Shorty” Long.
Described by Motown founder Berry Gordy
Jr as “the best A&R man who leads the list of [Motown’s] unsung heroes” and by Smokey Robinson
as “never having received his props,” Stevenson was also a prolific songwriter and producer during Motown’s golden era.
Among his biggest songwriting successes are Martha & the Vandella’s “Dancing in the Street
” (co-written by Hunter and Gaye), Marvin Gaye and Kim Weston’s “It Takes Two
” (co-written by Sylvia Moy), The Marvelettes’ “Beechwood 4-5789
” (co-written by Gaye and George Gordy), Marvin Gaye’s “Stubborn Kind of Fellow
” (co-written by Gaye and Gordy), Marvin Gaye’s “Pride and Joy
” (co-written by Gaye), The Four Tops’ “Ask the Lonely
” (co-written by Hunter), The Contours’ “Can You Jerk Like Me
” (co-written by Hunter), and Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels’ “Devil With the Blue Dress On
” (co-written by Frederick “Shorty” Long).
Stevenson was also a highly successful producer, having produced Jimmy Ruffin’s “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted
” (co-produced by William Weatherspoon), Stevie Wonder’s “Uptight (Everything’s Alright)
” (co-produced by Henry “Hank” Cosby
), and countless other hits.
After leaving Motown, Stevenson was appointed head of Venture Records in 1969, a subsidiary of MGM, and founded Peoples Records. He later shifted gears to follow his passion, writing and producing a series of theatrical musicals including Swann
, Wings and Things
, The Gospel Truth
, Chocolate City
, and Sang, Sista, Sang
In 2015, Stevenson released his autobiography entitled “The A&R Man
”. Currently, he is collaborating with Brian Holland
, Smokey Robinson, and Deitrick Haddon to produce “Azusa Revival
,” a musical based upon the origins of the Pentecostal movement.