Odell Brown Jr., a musician who cowrote one of Marvin Gaye's biggest hits only to soon find himself a victim of depression and destitute, has died.
Mr. Brown, 70, died May 3 in his Richfield, Minn., home after moving to the Twin Cities area in the mid-1990s and stabilizing his professional and personal life.
He began playing piano in his hometown, Louisville, Ky., tapping out classical songs at age 4. He broke through musically while living in Chicago, when his jazz group Odell Brown & the Organizers received Billboard's "Best New Group" award in 1966.
As Mr. Brown recounted in a Star Tribune interview in 2003, he was playing a new electric keyboard in 1982 and hit the notes that caught Gaye's ears. Soon, Gaye was humming the tune. Words were uttered, and the 1982 Grammy-winning song "Sexual Healing" came to life. "It took two minutes to write," Mr. Brown said.
But as the song soared, Mr. Brown fell - hard. In 1983, while living in a Skid Row hotel in Los Angeles, he sat in a bar and watched the Grammy Awards. He was nominated four times and won for best R&B instrumental for "Sexual Healing." He told a stranger next to him that he'd won a Grammy. The stranger responded: "Yeah, right."
- Star Tribune of Minneapolis