Edward Benjamin 'Ed' Townsend (April 16, 1929 – August 13, 2003) was an American singer, songwriter, producer and attorney. He was best known for performing his composition, "For Your Love," a rhythm and blues doo wop classic, and as the co-writer of "Let's Get It On" with Marvin Gaye.
The year Townsend graduated from high school, he was elected to the International American Methodist Episcopal Youth Council (IAMEYC) and travelled worldwide before enrolling in college the next year at Arkansas State College. After graduating, he taught for a year. Although he never formally practiced law, he frequently used his law training to assist other entertainers in negotiating their recording and performance contracts.
In 1951, Townsend joined the United States Marine Corps and served in Korea. After his discharge, he recorded a number of singles for various labels, none of which made the charts. In 1958, he took his ballad, "For Your Love" to Capitol Records, hoping to interest Nat “King” Cole, but, impressed with his voice, Capitol signed him to record it himself. Dick Clark had just started American Bandstand on television and invited Townsend to sing the first month the show aired. He was an overnight success and the song shot up the US pop chart, reaching #13.
Townsend had no further vocal hits of his own. In 1962, he wrote a song for soul singer, Jimmy Holiday, "How Can I Forget?", which was later covered by Ben E. King. Then he wrote and produced Theola Kilgore’s "The Love Of My Man." He also composed "Tears Of Joy," "Hand It Over," "I Might Like It," "Since I Found You," and "Foolish Fool." In the early 1970s Ed Townsend teamed up with Marvin Gaye to write one of the biggest hits of all time, "Let's Get It On" from the album of the same title.
One of his most memorable performances was on the PBS television special "Rock, Rhythm, and Doo Wop" filmed at the Benedum Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on May 16 and 17, 2000. DVDs of the event were sold as fundraisers for PBS stations nationwide.
Townsend battled addiction to alcohol and other drugs, but was finally able to overcome it. In the few years prior to his death, he wrote a full length musical titled, "Rehabilitation: Been There Done That!" which toured Southern California to bring a strong message of sobriety through his artistic genius. He valued it as his "most important work to date". An original cast album was produced on his label, EBT New Life and got extensive radio play nationally across the United States on many gospel and R&B radio stations. In his lifetime he produced close to fifty major artists.
Ed Townsend was married once and had two sons and one daughter, Kathryn Griffin-Townsend (one son was David Townsend, former guitarist for Surface). He died on August 13, 2003 in San Bernardino, California at the age of 74 and enjoyed the company of Janice Carbonnaire, his partner before his passing. He loved children and honored the families of EBT New LIFE as often as he could celebrating their milestones fully entertaining the large brood of 'adoptees' to his condo/home in Reseda. Around 2002, he began using a wheelchair after suffering falls. Although he was able to fully rehabilitate from drugs and alcohol and spent his sober life helping others up from a life of abuse, he never was able to kick his smoking habit and preferred clove tobacco which likely weakened his heart. Since he quit drinking, he made a call for a "world sobriety check", but rumor has it that he felt these calls were ignored. His speech and songwriting skills fostered the careers of so many - but to some, he was largely unsung. His son David, member of the group Surface, suddenly passed two years later at the youthful age of 50.
Townsend served as Composer for:
- Black Fist (1975)
- The Ultimate Thrill (1974)
In the R&B world, he is best remembered for his work with Dee Dee Warwick on "I Wanna Be With You", "Foolish Fool" and "That's Not Love"
- ASCAP Biographical Dictionary. R. R. Bowker Co., 1980.
- Perrone, Pierre (December 25, 2005). "David Townsend - Singer with the soul trio Surface". Independent.co.uk - Obituaries. Retrieved April 24, 2009.