by A. Scott, special to Pop, Rock & Doo Wopp
Motown legend and R&B Hall of Fame member Robert Bateman has passed away, aged 80.
Born in Illinois with one arm shorter than the other, he was easily recognized by his distinctive gait. Many people believed it was an affected walk, and began to copy him, such was his influence in Detroit.
Later, though, he would become better known for his song writing prowess. The Illinois native was also known for his deep booming voice that set his career rolling as a background singer, and Motown’s first engineer. It was he whom acquired their first recording gear, procuring a tape machine that Detroit radio station, WJLB, had discarded.
He moved on in the music world with the R&B group The Satintones. They were the first group ever to record under the Motown label. During 1959 and 1961 they recorded and released six singles.
The Satintones disbanded in 1961, paving the way for Bateman to forge a song writing and production partnership with Brian Holland, called Brianbert.
His biggest hits included Motown’s first number one song, The Marvelettes’ “Please Mr. Postman”. Bateman and Holland oversaw the two weeks of rehearsals before The Marvelettes recorded the song, which just happened to feature a young drummer by the name of Marvin Gaye, aged just 22. The song went gold, and was number 1 in the R&B charts for 7 weeks, while reaching the top spot in the Billboard charts in the fall of 1961. Other efforts included “If You Need Me”, “Right Now and Not Later”, and “Playboy”.
He left Motown in 1963 and solidified his career as a respected writer-producer. He worked with Wilson Pickett and former Supreme Florence Ballard.
He returned to Detroit in the 70’s, after a short time working in New York, where he worked in local studios discovering artists, while still writing and producing.
Bateman was also uncle of Jeffree Perry, a singing, song-writing, producer whose credits include “One Love in My Lifetime” sung by Diana Ross, “Beautiful Day” by Jackie Wilson, and “Love’s Gonna Last”.
He has long been a familiar face at Motown reunions and R&B gatherings. However, his last appearance was in Dearborn on the 21st of August when he was inducted into R&B’s Hall of Fame.
Bateman suffered a heart attack while in California for the Heroes and Legends Award ceremony and was hospitalized in Sherman Oaks. Unfortunately, he showed no signs of improvement and slipped into a coma. He passed away in the hospital a short time later, on the 12th of October, 2016. The funeral arrangements are being handled by Swanson Funeral Home in Detroit.