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Janie Bradford

Songwriter Janie Bradford was born on June 2, 1939 in Charleston, Missouri, the youngest of three children born to Richard Henry, a minister, and Elizabeth Bradford. Although her father prohibited secular music in their home, Bradford was influenced early in life by diverse music styles, including country and gospel. In 1956, Bradford graduated from Lincoln High School in Charleston then migrated to Detroit, Michigan where she attended the Detroit Institute of Technology and lived with her sister Clea Bradford, a jazz singer. There, Bradford met Jackie Wilson, who introduced her to the founder of Motown Records, Berry Gordy.

In 1958, Bradford joined Motown Records as a secretary but soon became a songwriter for Motown singers. The first two sings she co-authored with Gordy were included on Jackie Wilson’s album, Lonely Teardrops. The next collaboration that Bradford co-wrote with Gordy was the song, “Money (That’s What I Want),” which been covered over two hundred times by artists such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Muddy Watters, The Supremes and Boyz II Men. Bradford’s administrative involvement with Motown Records continued to grow, and Gordy named her director of writer’s relations. Bradford worked for the company for more than twenty-five years as a songwriter at Motown Records where she wrote numerous hit songs such as “Too Busy Thinking About My Baby,” “Your Old Standby,” “All The Love I’ve Got,” “Time Changes Things” and “Contract On Love,” which she wrote for Marvin Gaye, Mary Wells, The Supremes and Stevie Wonder, respectively.

She independently wrote the lyrics for Marvin Gay’s top-selling track, “Just Keep Thinkin’ Bout My Baby,” which was one of his top-selling singles. Bradford served as an administrative secretary for Jobette Records, and has received credit for naming “The Supremes,” who were originally known as “The Primettes.” Bradford went on to become the founder of Mountain Goat Music and Music Notes Gift Shop in Beverly Hills, California where she publishes Entertainment Connection Magazine. In addition, she is the executive director of the Janie Bradford Heroes and Legends (HAL) Scholarship Fund and producer of the HAL Awards. In 2010, Bradford established Twin Records with songwriter and singer Marilyn McLeod. Together Bradford and McLeod produced Bradford the album titled, I Believe in Me.

Bradford has been honored by BMI with a Certificate of Achievement for her co-authoring “Money” and “Too Busy Thinkin’ About My Baby.” Jack the Rapper presented her with the Vivian Carter Award for her contributions to music, and during L.A. Music Week in 2011 the City of Los Angeles presented her with honors.

Music writer Janie Bradford was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on November 28, 2012.

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Lincoln High School

Bird's Mill School

Detroit Institute of Technology

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Favorite Vacation Destination

Los Angeles, California

Favorite Quote

If The Elevator Stops, Take The Stairs.

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Speakers Bureau Region City

Los Angeles


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Short Description

Songwriter Janie Bradford (1939 - ) was a songwriter at Motown Records for over twenty-five years.


Jobete Music Co., Inc./Motown Records

Mountain Goat Music

Music Notes

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Timing Pairs

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Janie Bradford's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Janie Bradford lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Janie Bradford describes her mother's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Janie Bradford describes her mother's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Janie Bradford talks about her father's migration from Mississippi to Missouri, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Janie Bradford talks about her father's migration from Mississippi to Missouri, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Janie Bradford remembers segregation in Charleston, Missouri

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Janie Bradford describes her parents' personalities and who she takes after

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Janie Bradford remembers her father's congregation

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Janie Bradford lists her siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Janie Bradford describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Janie Bradford remembers her community in Charleston, Missouri

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Janie Bradford remembers her household

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Janie Bradford recalls the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Janie Bradford remembers her sister's musical career

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Janie Bradford describes her early musical interests

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Janie Bradford remembers her interest in poetry

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Janie Bradford remembers the Bird's Mill School in Charleston, Missouri

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Janie Bradford describes her father's discipline

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Janie Bradford recalls her experiences at Lincoln High School in Charleston, Missouri

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Janie Bradford describes her extracurricular activities at Lincoln High School

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Janie Bradford recalls moving to Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Janie Bradford describes her early years in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Janie Bradford talks about her early work with Berry Gordy and Jackie Wilson

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Janie Bradford remembers writing 'Money (That's What I Want)'

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Janie Bradford talks about the invention of 45 rpm records

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Janie Bradford describes her songs on Jackie Wilson's 'Lonely Teardrops'

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Janie Bradford recalls the naming of The Supremes

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Janie Bradford talks about her popular Motown Records songs, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Janie Bradford talks about her popular Motown Records songs, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Janie Bradford reflects upon the success of her songs

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Janie Bradford talks about covers of her songs

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Janie Bradford describes how she earns money from her songs

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Janie Bradford remembers her duties with Jobete Publishing

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Janie Bradford reflects upon her career with Motown Records

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Janie Bradford remembers The Funk Brothers

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Janie Bradford recalls turning down a partnership with Brian Holland and Lamont Dozier

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Janie Bradford remembers Motown Records' move to Los Angeles, California

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Janie Bradford describes Mountain Goat Music

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Janie Bradford talks about the Music Notes gift shop in Los Angeles, California

Tape: 4 Story: 12 - Janie Bradford describes the Heroes and Legends Scholarship Fund

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Janie Bradford talks about the Heroes and Legends Scholarship Fund

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Janie Bradford describes her plans for the future

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Janie Bradford talks about her favorites musicians

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Janie Bradford describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Janie Bradford reflects upon her life and legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Janie Bradford talks about her family

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Janie Bradford describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Janie Bradford narrates her photographs







Janie Bradford talks about covers of her songs
Janie Bradford talks about the Heroes and Legends Scholarship Fund
Following the evolution of the songs, I mean the two songs, 'Money' ['Money (That's What I Want)'] and 'Too Busy Thinking About My Baby,' have been recorded by other artists all over the place. And I think the beginning of the mid-'60s [1960s], the British musicians started recording your songs, right?$$Yes, and I think The Beatles were the first British that did and then the Rolling Stones, and right there, that gold record for Flying Lizards. That was funny. My daughter [Nicole Hobbs] went to school and told her teacher that I had written that song. I said, "Why didn't you tell her I didn't write that production and arrangement?" They rearranged, Flying Lizard, "That best things in life are free, but you can give them to the birds and bees." It's one of those kind of (laughter)--I said, "Why did you tell her that," (laughter)? But I got a--I'm proud of the gold record on the wall, so (laughter).$$The Flying Lizards.$$Uh-huh.$$Okay. So, all right, so, so, is there a particular group that surprised, that you were surprised that even performed it other than the Lizards?$$Boyz II Men, because they sing such lush ballads, ballads all the time and blend their voices. And when I--was, was about two years ago they recorded 'Money' and released as their single. I was really surprised.$$Yeah, 'Money' has also been heard on commercials, right?$$Oh yeah, movies, commercials, yeah.$$Right, right. How, but how, how many--could you, can you estimate how many, many commercial or movies this appeared in?$$Oh, maybe, movies, maybe about fifty, 'cause year before last I think it was in five movies at one time that same year, so maybe fifty or more. In movies--commercials, I don't know, quite a few, and it's been recorded by various artists over three hundred times.$$So this song is--it's safe to say it's an iconic song.$$Yeah.$$And I mean, it's something that's a part of popular culture now, and I don't think you could ever get it out of it, out of popular culture today.$$I don't think so. I hope not (laughter).$$Okay. And what about 'Too Busy Thinking About My Baby,' is that--$$Yeah, Phil Collins and several others have, have recorded it, so it keeps pretty good but not compared to--well, very few songs compare to 'Money.'$$Yeah, something everybody wants.$$Um-hm, something that everybody wants (laughter).$$Okay, that was the question of the day.$$I gave the right answer.$$Okay, I think we're sitting here on the eve of the largest payout in lottery history. I mean, there, there, you know, the what's it--$$Yeah.$$--Powerball is at the highest level it's ever been as we sit here today.$$And it's in Arizona. We can't play here (laughter).$$Okay, okay.$Who are some of the recipients of the Heroes and Legends scholarships [Heroes and Legends Scholarship Fund] (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) Well, one, one fellow I called when I was putting together a record label [Mountain Goat Music], I called the musicians union [American Federation of Musicians Local 47], and they switched me to this odd sounding name. And it struck me. I said I've heard that name once before, and it can't be but one person. So when I got him, I asked, I said, "Are you last year's Heroes and Legends scholarship recipient?" He's now vice president of the musicians union here in Los Angeles [California].$$Okay.$$And then Steven Ellison, we gave him a scholarship twice. When they continue, sometime we give them extended scholarship the next year to help them continue. He is now--oh, what is his, his name? Flying Lotus.$$Okay.$$He is so big in Europe. He was just here at the Hollywood Bowl [Los Angeles, California]. He was here at the Ikea theater [sic. Club Nokia; The Novo by Microsoft, Los Angeles, California], so he went on--these are the kind of clubs and things he's working and, and playing now. And then there was another, Ebony--what's Ebony's last name? But anyway, they called her Lady Sticks. So she, she's a drummer, and she have gone on to play for Sheila E. and a lot of the, the big names. So, they do go on and continue, most of them. But what happened, we give the scholarship to--they must be going to an art school first, even if it's a regular school, it must be an art department where they're studying whatever they tell us they're studying. And we give the money to the school in their name, so they have to go in order to reap the benefit of the money. And we try to give it to as many local art places as possible, so therefore, we help the school if the student should not go, which so far has never happened. But you know, we kill two birds with one stone. We're helping the school and the student at the same time.$$Okay. So these are local artists in the Los Angeles area?$$Los Angeles area or, or California, long as they're in California and so forth--$$Okay.$$--so far.$$Okay. Now this has been going on for twenty-four years now.$$Twenty-four years.$$Okay, all right.