Photo Larry Busacca
Sylvia Rose Moy (September 15, 1938 – April 15, 2017) was an American songwriter and record producer, formerly associated with the Motown Records group. The first woman at the Detroit-based music label to write and produce for Motown acts, she is probably best known for her songs written with and for Stevie Wonder.
Life and career
Born and brought up on the northeast side of Detroit, Moy studied and performed jazz and classical music at Northern High School, before she was seen performing in a club in 1963 by Marvin Gaye and Mickey Stevenson. She was given recording and songwriting contracts by Motown, but was urged to prioritize her songwriting because the company was short of material for their artists.
According to Berry Gordy‘s autobiography To Be Loved, Moy was directly responsible for the label keeping Stevie Wonder. Gordy wrote that, after Stevie’s voice began to change as a result of puberty, he was going to drop him from the label. It was then that Moy went to Gordy and asked “if she could come up with a hit for Stevie would he reconsider”; he agreed. Her first writing success came with “Uptight (Everything’s Alright)“, which she co-wrote with Henry “Hank” Cosby after hearing Wonder improvising on piano. Moy wrote lyrics to the song, which she conveyed to Wonder by singing into his headphones one line ahead as he recorded.
Among the subsequent hit singles Moy wrote and/or produced while at Motown were Stevie Wonder’s “My Cherie Amour“, “I Was Made to Love Her“, and “Never Had a Dream Come True“; and “Honey Chile” and “Love Bug Leave My Heart Alone” by Martha and the Vandellas. She also co-wrote “This Old Heart of Mine (Is Weak for You)” with Holland-Dozier-Holland for the Isley Brothers; and “It Takes Two” with William “Mickey” Stevenson for Marvin Gaye and Kim Weston.
She later wrote theme songs for several television shows, and was involved in writing film music. She was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame alongside fellow Motown songwriter and producer Hank Cosby in 2006. She also set up a non-profit group, Center for Creative Communications, working with underprivileged children in Detroit.
Moy died of complications from pneumonia in Dearborn, Michigan, at the age of 78.
Selected songwriting credits
- “Uptight (Everything’s Alright)” (with Stevie Wonder and Henry Cosby)
- “This Old Heart of Mine (Is Weak for You) (with Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, and Eddie Holland)
- “It Takes Two” (with William “Mickey” Stevenson)
- “I Was Made to Love Her” (with Stevie Wonder, Lula Mae Hardaway, and Henry Cosby)
- “Honey Chile” (with Richard Morris)
- “Shoo-Be-Doo-Be-Doo-Da-Day” (with Stevie Wonder and Henry Cosby)
- “My Cherie Amour” (with Stevie Wonder and Henry Cosby)
- “Never Had a Dream Come True” (with Stevie Wonder and Henry Cosby)
- Sylvia Moy, Songwriters Hall of Fame. Retrieved 16 April 2017
- McCollum, Brian (April 16, 2017). “Sylvia Moy, Motown pioneer and Stevie Wonder collaborator, dies at 78”. Detroit Free Press.
- Graham Betts, Motown Encyclopedia. Retrieved 17 February 2015
- Ribowsky, Mark. Signed, Sealed, and Delivered: The Soulful Journey of Stevie Wonder, p.133-44 (2010)
- Sylvia Moy at MusicVF.com. Retrieved 18 February 2015
- Perone, James E. The sound of Stevie Wonder: his words and music, p. 5-11 (2006)
- Mitchell, Gail (22 April 2006). Rhythm & Blues, Billboard
- Songs written by Sylvia Moy, MusicVF.com. Retrieved 16 April 2017