By Leslie Kauffman| Published 10/03/2012 in NYTIMES.COM
Frank Wilson, a Motown producer and songwriter who wrote or co-wrote some of the label’s biggest hits, including “Love Child,” performed by the Supremes, “All I Need” by the Temptations and “Castles in the Sand”by Stevie Wonder, died on Sept. 27 in Duarte, Calif. He was 71.
The cause was complications of a lung infection, his daughter Tracey Stein said. He had been treated for prostate cancer.
Mr. Wilson, who later became a born-again preacher, started his career as a performer and had one single, “Do I Love You (Indeed I Do),” which became an underground hit long after he recorded it. But he had his greatest success behind the scenes.
After joining the Detroit-based Motown in the mid-1960s at its newly opened Los Angeles office, he was involved in composing numerous other pop hits, among them “Chained,” for Marvin Gaye, and “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy,” for Brenda Holloway. She recorded the song in 1967, and it went on to become an even bigger hit for Blood, Sweat and Tears two years later.
In 1968, with the Supremes struggling to remain at the top of the Billboard charts, Motown’s founder, Berry Gordy, gathered Mr. Wilson and a few other confidants to develop a bolder approach for the group. They came up with “Love Child.” Its taboo-breaking lyrics, about having a child outside marriage, helped propel the song to No. 1 on the pop charts in late 1968.
After the Supremes’ lead singer, Diana Ross, left to start a solo career a year later, Mr. Wilson produced the group’s next album and came up with subsequent Supremes hits like “Up the Ladder to the Roof” (1970), which he co-wrote, and “Stoned Love” (1970).
But in 1974 he had a born-again experience and began holding Bible-study sessions for singers at his house. In 1976 he quit Motown and went on to form a ministry for entertainers. With his second wife, P. Bunny Wilson, he founded a church, New Dawn Christian Village, in Los Angeles in 2004.
Frank Edward Wilson was born on Dec. 5, 1940, in Houston to James Wilson and Samanther Gibbs. His uncles had a singing group, and his mother taught him to play the piano by ear.
Mr. Wilson attended Southern University in Baton Rouge, La., but dropped out after his scholarship was revoked for joining a civil-rights protest in his sophomore year. He got a one-way bus ticket to Los Angeles, his daughter Tracey said.
Besides Ms. Stein, a child from his first marriage, to the singer Barbara Jean Dedmon, who died in 1966, he is survived by his wife and their four daughters, Launi King, Fawn Weaver, Christy Meeks and Gabrielle Wilson; a son from another relationship, Frank Wilson Jr.; three brothers, James, Leonard and Floyd; and a sister, Barbara Jean Hightower.