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Ronald Dunbar, 78, Producer and Grammy-Winning Songwriter

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Ronald Dunbar, 78, Producer and Grammy-Winning Songwriter
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Ronald Dunbar, 78, Producer and Grammy-Winning Songwriter, Dies


APRIL 17, 2018

Ronald Dunbar, a record executive, producer and Grammy Award-winning songwriter who was credited with a number of soul hits, died on April 3 at a doctor’s office near his home in Fresno, Calif. He was 78.

His death was confirmed by his son Terone. No cause was given.

Mr. Dunbar started working with Berry Gordy soon after Mr. Gordy founded Motown Records in 1959. He worked closely with the production and songwriting team of Lamont Dozier and the brothers Brian and Eddie Holland, better known as Holland-Dozier-Holland, and he received more recognition after he left Motown with them in the late 1960s.

At Holland-Dozier-Holland Productions, Mr. Dunbar worked with artists as an executive and was credited with writing several hits released on the company’s Invictus label.

He and Edythe Wayne (the first name was sometimes spelled differently) were listed as the writers of “Give Me Just a Little More Time,” a plaintive but upbeat single by Chairmen of the Board, and on Freda Payne’s “Band of Gold,” a tale of marital desertion, both of which reached No. 3 on the Billboard singles chart in 1970.

Because the Holland brothers and Mr. Dozier were involved in a legal dispute with Motown at the time, they were unable to release recordings on which they were credited by name. Edythe Wayne is widely acknowledged to have been a pseudonym the three used, and Mr. Dozier has cast doubt on Mr. Dunbar’s involvement with the songs.

Mr. Dunbar shared a songwriting Grammy with General Johnson, Chairmen of the Board’s lead singer, for best rhythm-and-blues song in 1971, for the hit “Patches,” a rustic lament sung by the blues and soul singer Clarence Carter.

The song, about an impoverished young farmer struggling to care for his family after his father dies, became a crossover hit, reaching No. 4 on the Billboard pop chart in 1970.

After Invictus went out of business in the late 1970s, Mr. Dunbar became an artist and repertoire director for George Clinton’s expansive roster of funk musicians. He was one of the credited writers of the Parliament song “Agony of DeFeet” (1980) and the Brides of Funkenstein song “Never Buy Texas From a Cowboy” (1979).

He continued working with Mr. Clinton off and on, and in the late 1990s he came full circle, working for Eddie Holland at Holland Group Productions.

Mr. Dunbar was born to Willie Gaston and Arrie Dunbar, in Detroit on April 15, 1939. He attended Eastern High School there and grew up immersed in the Detroit music scene.

Mr. Dunbar worked as a painter or handyman when musical work was scarce. At his death he was working in artist development with Mr. Clinton’s label, C Kunspyruhzy Records.

Mr. Dunbar’s wife, Betty, died in 2017. In addition to his son Terone, his survivors include two more sons, Baron Cunningham and Derek Dunbar; two daughters, Donna Dunbar and Windy Ostrom; two stepsons, Terrence and Darryl Haywood; a stepdaughter, Nichole Spikes; 23 grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren
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