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Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Mary Wells born 13 May 1943

 
Mary Esther Wells (May 13, 1943 – July 26, 1992) was an American singer who helped to define the emerging sound of Motown in the early 1960s. Along with The Miracles, The Temptations, The Supremes, and the Four Tops, Wells was said to have been part of the charge in black music onto radio stations and record shelves of mainstream America, "bridging the colour lines in music at the time." She was one of Motown's first singing superstars.
 
Mary Esther Wells was born in Detroit, Michigan, on May 13, 1943. Her early years were not easy growing up without a father. Her mother did domestic work in order to support her three children. As a small child, Wells suffered a bout of spinal meningitis, which left her temporarily paralyzed, with loss of hearing, and partial blindness in one eye. When she returned to good health she suffered the hardship of learning to walk again. Like many African-American singers, Wells' musical roots can be traced back to the church where she began singing around age three or four. At age 10, she began singing in local clubs and talent contests. While attending North-western High School she sang in the choir.
 
As a teenager Wells wrote a song called "Bye Bye Baby" for legendary singer Jackie Wilson. At age 16 she went with the song to the fledgling Motown Records and producer Berry Gordy, Jr. who were having open auditions. Gordy not only bought the song, he signed Wells to a recording contract. Her debut single "Bye Bye Baby" reached #45 on the Pop charts and # 8 on the R & B charts in 1960. Legendary singer Smokey Robinson for whom she had a singing and song writing partnership, which was to be very fruitful in the following years began to write songs for Wells. He wrote and produced her biggest Motown hits "Two Lovers" (1963), "You Beat Me to the Punch" (1962) and "The One Who Really Loves You" (1962), and her career peaked when " My Guy" hit the number one spot in mid-1964. She also had success with some duets, such as "Once Upon a Time," which she did with the soulful Marvin Gaye.
 

 
 
The Beatles had a great deal of admiration for Wells, declaring her their favourite American singer, calling her "their sweetheart "and invited her to the U. K. to tour with them. Upon her return to the states, the Beatles sent Wells several compositions to be released on their next album. In return, she recorded and album called "Love songs to the Beatles." After suing Motown over her invalid contract 20th Century Fox soon lured Wells away with several hundred thousand dollars from Motown with false promises of a movie career. She released five songs on the 20th Century label in 1965 and 1966 but only one, "Use Your Head," made the top forty. In late 1965, she signed with Atco and had a hit with "Dear Lover," but none of her subsequent records were successful as her Motown recordings. The single "Dig the Way I Feel" became a minor hit in 1969.
 
In 1970, Wells retired from performing to raise her four children while married for a while to her second husband Cecil Womack, brother of 70's recording star Bobby Womack with whom she had married in 1967. The pair wrote and produced much of her 60's and 70's output. Next, Wells had a successful run playing with touring oldies shows. She had a fanatical following and was very well liked by people in the music business. She did continue to record with singles on Reprise in 1971 and 1974. Wells resumed her career in 1978 doing nightclub acts and recorded two singles for Columbia / Epic in 1982. In the early 80's, she re-recorded her biggest hits for Allegiance Records and was featured on Motown's twenty-fifth anniversary television special in 1983.
 
In 1987, Wells signed with Motor City Records, and an album "Keeping My Mind On Love" was released in 1990. That same year, Wells was diagnosed with cancer of the larynx. The cancer was caused by a heavy smoking habit, which Wells admitted was up to two packs a day. The cancer treatment she had to undergo left her unable to sing for many years. She also had no health insurance, and the costly treatments and therapy quickly eliminated her finances. She was so financially devastated, that she was evicted from the apartment where she and her daughter lived. But her friends in the industry came to her rescue, and such notable musicians such as Bruce Springsteen, Bonnie Raitt, Diana Ross, Rod Stewart, and Elton John helped her pay her medical bills and living expenses. Wells even appeared on a special Joan Rivers television show in which she was paid tribute by stars such as Stevie Wonder and Little Richard.
 
Determined to help the fight against cancer, Wells appeared before a Congressional Committee to argue for government funds for cancer research. In her speech she said, "I'm here today to urge you to keep the faith. I can't cheer you on with all my voice, but I can encourage, and I pray to motivate you with all my heart and soul and whispers."
 
On July 26, 1992, the strain of Wells’ cancer and a weakened immune system finally forced her heart to give out. And a voice that was one of the most beautiful to emerge out of the sixties was stilled forever. Mary Esther Wells died of pneumonia and cancer-related complications at the tender age of just forty-nine. Her death stunned the Motown family putting an end to an early era of the classic sounds of the label. Despite her difficulties after leaving Motown, Wells managed to handle everything with a smile. She never complained and always was humble even in success. For music listeners who love Motown and grew up in the sixties, Wells’ soothing voice fit the soundtrack of people’s lives and more than twenty years later, they’re still proclaiming Wells to be “their girl”.

(Info mainly edited from Oral Cancer Foundation & Curtis Jackson)
 

2 comments:

boppinbob said...

For Mary Wells – The Ultimate Collection go here:

https://www.oboom.com/#6936W5VD

01. Bye Bye Baby
02. I Don’t Want To Take A Chance
03. Strange Love
04. The One Who Really Loves You
05. You Beat Me To The Punch
06. Old Love (Let’s Try Again)
07. Two Lovers
08. Operator
09. Laughing Boy
10. Two Wrongs Won’t Make Things Right
11. Goodbye And Good Luck
12. Your Old Stand By
13. What Love Has Joined Together
14. You Lost The Sweetest Boy
15. What’s Easy For Two Is So Hard For One
16. My Guy
17. Oh Little Boy (What Did You Do To Me)
18. Once Upon A Time
19. What’s The Matter With You Baby
20. Whisper You Love Me Boy
21. I’ll Be Available
22. When I’M Gone
23. Use Your Head
24. Never, Never Leave Me
25. Dear Lover

punkinblue9 said...

Very nice!