Motown founder Berry Gordy is "saddened" by the death of singer and songwriter Barrett Strong.

Strong, who sang Motown Records' first hit single Money (That's What I Want), passed away on Sunday in Detroit, Michigan. He was 81.

Reacting to Strong's death, Gordy told Variety, "I am saddened to hear of the passing of Barrett Strong, one of my earliest artists, and the man who sang my first big hit Money (That's What I Want) in 1959. Barrett was not only a great singer and piano player, but he, along with his writing partner Norman Whitfield, created an incredible body of work, primarily with the Temptations.

"Their hit songs were revolutionary in sound and captured the spirit of the times like Cloud Nine and the still relevant, Ball of Confusion (That's What the World is Today). My heartfelt condolences go out to his family and friends. Barrett is an original member of the Motown Family and will be missed by all of us."

After finding fame with Money (That's What I Want), which was later recorded by the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, Strong transitioned from performer to songwriter.

In collaboration with Norman Whitfield, he wrote hit songs including I Heard It Through the Grapevine by both Marvin Gaye and Gladys Knight & the Pips, War by Edwin Starr and Cloud Nine, Ball of Confusion (That's What the World Is Today) and Papa Was a Rollin' Stone for The Temptations. They won a Grammy Award for Best R&B Song for the latter track in 1973.

Strong left Motown Records in the '70s and pursued a solo career, and he released four solo albums between 1975 and 2008.

He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2004.