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Henry Cosby

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Henry Cosby
Cosby, early 1960s
Background information
Birth nameHenry R. Cosby
Also known asHank Cosby
Born(1928-05-12)May 12, 1928
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
DiedJanuary 22, 2002(2002-01-22) (aged 73)
Royal Oak, Michigan, U.S.
Occupation(s)Saxophonist, songwriter, arranger, producer
InstrumentsTenor saxophone
Years active1950s - 1970s
Associated actsThe Funk Brothers, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson

Henry R. "Hank" Cosby (May 12, 1928 – January 22, 2002) was an American songwriter, arranger, producer and musician who worked for Motown Records from its formative years. Along with Sylvia Moy, Cosby was a key collaborator with Stevie Wonder from 1963–1970. Cosby co-wrote and/or co-produced three No. 1 US hits: Stevie Wonder's "Fingertips" (1963), The Supremes' "Love Child" (1968), and The Miracles' "The Tears of a Clown" (1968).[1]

Life and career

Cosby was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1928. He served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, where he played alongside jazz saxophonist Cannonball Adderley in the military band.[2] Upon his return to Detroit, he joined pianist Joe Hunter's jazz band. He played tenor saxophone in jazz clubs, as well as on records for different labels around the city.

When Berry Gordy launched Motown Records in 1959 he recruited the Joe Hunter Band with Cosby, Benny Benjamin, James Jamerson, Larry Veeder, and Mike Terry, forming the basis of the ever-growing group of studio musicians contracted to the company. These studio musicians became known as the Funk Brothers, and as a member of their early line-up Cosby performed on hundreds of Motown recordings in the 1960s, including Martha Reeves & the Vandellas US#2 hit "Dancing in the Street" (1964).[3] As was Motown's policy at the time, none of the studio musicians were credited by name. Cosby also played on John Lee Hooker's 1962 single "Boom Boom", on Vee-Jay Records.[4]

In addition to his saxophone playing, Cosby showed Gordy his talents as an arranger, producer, and songwriter, and became a key collaborator with the young Stevie Wonder.

Through the 1960s Cosby worked with many Motown artists, including production work for The Supremes, The Temptations, Jr. Walker, Edwin Starr, Brenda Holloway, and others.[5] He is best known for co-writing and/or co-producing many of Stevie Wonder's early hits. These include Wonder's first major hit "Fingertips", "My Cherie Amour", "I Was Made to Love Her", "Uptight (Everything's Alright)" and "For Once in My Life". Cosby received a writing credit for Bill Cosby's US#4 hit "Little Ole Man (Uptight, Everything's Alright)" (1967), a revamped version of "Uptight (Everything's Alright)" - but Henry Cosby and Bill Cosby were not related.

Cosby co-wrote and co-produced "The Tears of a Clown" (1968), a US#1 hit for Smokey Robinson & the Miracles.

After leaving Motown when the company moved to Los Angeles in the early 1970s, Cosby worked for a time as a producer with Fantasy Records, including production work for Rance Allen, a gospel-influenced artist from Detroit. His later productions include albums for Martha Reeves, and Blood, Sweat and Tears.[5] In 1977 Cosby wrote and produced the song "Be My Fortune Teller" by 94 East, one of the first recordings by Prince, and Colonel Abrams.[6]


Cosby died at age 73 on January 22, 2002, at the William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan,[7] after complications from a cardiac bypass surgery. His name is written on an honorary South Tower Construction beam of the hospital.


In 2006, Cosby was posthumously inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, alongside Sylvia Moy.[7]

Selective Discography


Year Title Artist Chart Writers Producers
1963 Fingertips Stevie Wonder US#1 Cosby, Clarence Paul Berry Gordy Jr.
1965 Uptight (Everything's Alright) Stevie Wonder US#3, UK#14 Cosby, Sylvia Moy, Wonder Cosby, Mickey Stevenson
1966 Nothing's Too Good for My Baby Stevie Wonder US#20 Cosby, Moy, Stevenson Cosby, Stevenson
1966 A Place in the Sun Stevie Wonder US#9, UK#20 Ron Miller, Bryan Wells Cosby
1966 It Takes Two Marvin Gaye & Kim Weston US#14, UK#16 Stevenson, Moy Cosby, Stevenson
1967 I Was Made to Love Her Stevie Wonder US#2, UK#5 Cosby, Moy, Wonder, Hardaway Cosby
1967 I'm Wondering Stevie Wonder US#12, UK#22 Cosby, Moy, Wonder Cosby
1968 Shoo-Be-Doo-Be-Doo-Da-Day Stevie Wonder US#9, UK#46 Cosby, Moy, Wonder Cosby
1968 Love Child Diana Ross & the Supremes US#1, UK#15, CAN#1 The Clan The Clan & Henry Cosby
1968 For Once in My Life Stevie Wonder US#2, UK#3 Ron Miller, Orlando Murden Cosby
1969 My Cherie Amour Stevie Wonder US#4, UK#4 Cosby, Moy, Wonder Cosby
1969 No Matter What Sign You Are Diana Ross & the Supremes US#31, UK#37 Cosby, Berry Gordy Jr. Cosby, Berry Gordy Jr.
1970 The Tears of a Clown Smokey Robinson & The Miracles US#1, UK#1 Cosby, Wonder, Robinson Cosby, Robinson
1970 Never Had a Dream Come True Stevie Wonder US#67, UK#6 Cosby, Moy, Wonder Cosby
1970 I Should Be Proud Martha & the Vandellas US#80 Cosby, Pam Sawyer, Joe Hinton Cosby
1971 C'Est La Même Chanson Claude François FR#7 Holland-Dozier-Holland Cosby
1973 With a Child's Heart Michael Jackson US#50 Cosby, Moy, Vicki Basemore Freddie Perren, Fonce Mizell


Year Title Artist Chart Producers
1962 The Jazz Soul of Little Stevie Stevie Wonder - Clarence Paul, Hank Cosby
1962 Tribute to Uncle Ray Stevie Wonder - Clarence Paul, Hank Cosby
1966 Up-Tight Stevie Wonder US#33, UK#14 Paul, Cosby, Stevenson,
Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier
1966 Down to Earth Stevie Wonder US#92 Clarence Paul, Hank Cosby
1967 I Was Made to Love Her Stevie Wonder US#45 Clarence Paul, Hank Cosby
1974 Mirror Image Blood, Sweat & Tears US#149 Henry Cosby
1978 We Meet Again Martha Reeves - Henry Cosby
1978 Straight From The Heart Rance Allen - Henry Cosby
1979 Come Away With Me The Originals - Henry Cosby
1980 Gotta Keep Moving Martha Reeves - Henry Cosby, Lamont Dozier


  1. ^ "Hank Cosby". The Independent. 2002-04-06. Retrieved 2020-05-13.
  2. ^ "Henry Cosby | Songwriters Hall of Fame". Songhall.org. Retrieved 15 January 2021.
  3. ^ Liner notes. The Complete Motown Singles Vol. 4: 1964, Hip-O Select - B0005946-02, USA, 24 Feb 2006
  4. ^ Murray, Charles Shaar (2002). Boogie Man: The Adventures of John Lee Hooker in the American Twentieth Century. New York City: St. Martin's Griffin. pp. 237–240. ISBN 978-0-312-27006-3.
  5. ^ a b "Hank Cosby". The Independent. 28 February 2014. Retrieved 15 January 2021.
  6. ^ Grow, Kory (26 April 2016). "Inside Prince's Funky First Recording Sessions". Rollingstone.com. Retrieved 15 January 2021.
  7. ^ a b "Henry Cosby | Songwriters Hall of Fame". Songhall.org. Retrieved 2020-05-13.
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