R. Dean TaylorView in iTunes
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R. Dean Taylor remains one of the most underrated acts ever to record under the Motown aegis. After first proving his mettle as a chart-topping staff songwriter, his own single, "Indiana Wants Me," was a Top Five smash in 1970, becoming one of the label's first major crossover hits performed by a white artist. Born Richard Dean Taylor in Toronto in 1939, he began his singing career at age 12, performing at local country showcases before embracing rock & roll. In 1960, he signed to the Toronto-based Audiomaster label to cut his rockabilly-flavored debut single, "At the High School Dance," supported via appearances on the CBC as well as a brief tour of the northeastern U.S. Taylor relocated to New York City in 1962, signing to the Amy/Mala label to cut a pair of singles, "I'll Remember" and the novelty effort "We Fell in Love as We Tangoed." Neither attracted much notice, and the following year a friend in the Detroit region recommended he audition for Berry Gordy's up-and-coming Motown Records. While not the label's first white artist, Taylor would prove one of its most successful. Paired with Eddie Holland of the fabled Holland-Dozier-Holland songwriting/production team, he quickly proved an essential cog in the Motown assembly line, co-writing hits like the Supremes' number one pop blockbuster "Love Child," the Temptations' "All I Need," and the Four Tops' "I'll Turn to Stone." In 1965, Taylor issued his own Motown debut, the protest anthem "Let's Go Somewhere." The record went nowhere, and while the same fate greeted the follow-up, "There's a Ghost in My House," it would later enjoy a renaissance as one of the most beloved cult classics within Britain's Northern soul club scene. With 1967's "Gotta See Jane," Taylor cracked the U.K. Top 20, but Motown continued focusing its promotional muscle on its established acts and the record barely registered at home in the U.S. Upon relocating to Rare Earth, the fledgling Motown subsidiary formed to support its growing roster of white artists, Taylor finally hit paydirt with 1970's "Indiana Wants Me." A major hit in Detroit and across the Detroit River in Windsor, Ontario, its local success galvanized Motown's marketing forces, and the record peaked in the Billboard Top Five. The album I Think, Therefore I Am soon followed, but subsequent singles like 1971's "Candy Apple Red" and the following year's "Taos, New Mexico" failed to maintain Taylor's commercial momentum, and when Rare Earth folded in 1976, his Motown career came to a close. After a 1981 comeback attempt, "Let's Talk It Over," fizzled, Taylor retired from performing for over a decade, resurfacing in the late '90s as the headliner at several overseas Northern soul showcases. ~ Jason Ankeny