LEGENDARY PRODUCER ED TOWNSEND DIED AT 74
~Official Press Release~
Legendary Producer/Singer/Songwriter, Ed Townsend, also known as “Big Papa,” died suddenly on Wednesday, August 13th in Sun City, California. He was 74. His wife Janice was by his side.
The multi-platinum songwriter has been represented on the recording charts for nearly four decades with such recognizable hits as Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On” which went #1 R&B and Pop, and was recently proclaimed as the #1 hit song of the 20th Century by Mega 100 and the #1 Love Song of all time by Vibe Magazine; the Impressions’ “Finally Got Myself Together (I’m A Changed Man)” (#1 R&B); Theola Kilgore’s “The Love of My Man” (#3 R&B), Jimmy Holiday’s “How Can I Forget” (#8 R&B); Dee Dee Warwick’s “Foolish Fool” (R&B), and his own highly acclaimed #7 R&B/Pop Hit Single “For Your Love,” which measured over one million broadcast performances alone and was awarded “Best Song” in the Flip-Flop Hall of Fame, June 2003, for its “excellent performance and outstanding arrangement superbly interpreted by the studio band and lastly a song that typifies the period, all captured with the state of the art recording equipment.” His BMI award winning song library consists of over 200 titles that have been written for such legends as Nat “King” Cole, Etta James, and many others.
Born April 16, 1929, in Fayetteville, Tennessee, Townsend was very active in his Minister father’s church. He was an education major at Wilberforce University and graduated from Arkansas State College. He taught briefly before joining the U.S. Marine Corps where he served in Korea with distinction, earning The National Defense Service Medal, The Korean Service Medal with 3 Stars, and The United Nations Service Medal, and was honorably discharged as a Corporal. When he returned to the U.S., he got a job hosting a TV show in Los Angeles. While playing a song demo for Joe Zerga of Capitol Records, the record exec suggested that Townsend record the song “For Your Love” himself. The rest is history.
In addition to his professional accomplishments, Townsend devoted his life to helping men and women transition from alcohol rehabilitation to productive – and sober – living. Inspired by his own personal bout with alcoholism, and the many artists who followed him through the rehabilitation program, he wrote, produced, and performed some of his greatest work in the musical production called “(Rehabilitation) Been There! Done That!” His performance debuted in November 2001 at The Salvation Army Congress Hall in downtown Los Angeles. Ed Townsend was a living testimonial to the lyrics found in the play’s title track “It’s not he who falls that fails, but he who falls and fails to rise again.” Ed fell many times, but he always got back up.
With his personal resources and commitment, Ed Townsend created a non-profit organization, EBT New Life, Inc., to help struggling artists to be restored to rank and to privilege through education.
In addition to speaking around the country, and most recently at the University of Tennessee, Ed had a number of important projects on his plate that will continue. He had just completed a new recording that is sure to be a timeless hit titled “Count Every Grain of Sand.” Inspired by Ed over the years, his friend, Joe Johnson, established the Eagle Academy of Music in Mound Bayou, Mississippi, in Ed’s name, and as a way for the two of them to work together to bring more opportunities to others. Expanding into television and film was also a focus, and in his collaboration with actor/filmmaker Cylk Cozart (CEO, CCC Entertainment), they’ve been working on his life story, and on an upcoming feature film about the life of Marvin Gaye, which are in pre-production.
He has left us with a legacy of inspiration and love that will continue to live on always through his works.
Ed is survived by his Wife, Janice, Sons David and Michael, Daughter Kathryn Griffin, Grandchildren Sky, Terrini, and Heather, one Great Grandchild, his Brother Earl and Sister Helen, a host of Nieces and Nephews, three Step Daughters, former spouse Cherrigale Townsend, and many other family and friends.
A Memorial Service will be held on Wednesday, August 20th at 1:00 at The Salvation Army Riverside Corps. Chapel located at 3695 1st Street, Riverside, CA 92501. Internment will follow at the Riverside National Cemetery located at 22495 Van Buren Blvd., Riverside, CA 92518.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be sent to The Salvation Army Los Angeles Harbor Light Center at 809 E. 5th Street, Los Angeles, California, 90013, Attention: Conrad L. Watson, Executive Director.