John William Bristol, a singer and former Motown producer, died on March 21. Cause of death was not released. He was 65.
The North Carolina native was serving in the Air Force when he met singer Robert “Jackey” Beavers in the late 1950s. They formed the doo-wop duo Jackey & Johnny, and played shows in the Detroit area. In 1961, they recorded several singles, including the tune “Someday We’ll be Together.” Diana Ross & the Supremes remade the song in 1969, with Bristol singing background vocals.
Bristol spent most of the 1960s as a producer and songwriter for Motown Records. There he worked with some of the label’s biggest acts: Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, Michael Jackson, Gladys Knight & the Pips, the Four Tops and Stevie Wonder. Bristol married and divorced Maude Bristol Perry, Battle Creek, Mich.’s first African-American woman mayor. He also wed and divorced Iris Gordy, the niece of Motown founder Berry Gordy.
Bristol left Motown in 1973 and launched his solo career. He signed record deals with MGM and Atlantic and released numerous singles. The song, “Hang On In There Baby,” reached number two on the R&B charts and number eight on the pop charts. He continued recording music through the 80s and early 90s. At the time of his death, Bristol was finalizing plans to tour Britain and complete a gospel album.