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Martha & The Vandellas

Motown's brightest female star after Diana Ross, Martha Reeves was the earthy, gospel-infused counterpart to her rival Ross' uptown sophistication. With her backing group, the Vandellas, Reeves cut some of the brightest, most infectiously danceable R&B of her time. Unfortunately, she didn't fare as well after leaving Motown for a solo career in the '70s, and although she continued to perform for quite sometime, it was mostly on the oldies circuit, looking back over her past glories.

Reeves was born in Eufaula, AL, on July 18, 1941, and before she was even a year old, her family moved to Detroit. As a child, she sang in her grandfather's church and in school, and continued her vocal training through high school. After graduating in 1959, she joined a girl group called the Fascinations, and the following year co-founded the Del-Phis, whose membership included the future Vandellas. They cut a flop single for a Chess subsidiary in 1961; the same year, Reeves won a talent contest as a solo act and got a nightclub engagement performing as Martha LaVaille. There she was noticed by Motown exec William "Mickey" Stevenson, who invited her to stop by the label's offices. Reeves wasn't able to land an audition right away, but did parlay her visit into a secretarial job in the A&R department. She caught a lucky break when backup singers were needed for a recording session as quickly as possible, and so the Del-Phis wound up supporting Marvin Gaye on his first hit, 1962's "Stubborn Kind of Fellow." Stevenson was impressed enough to record a Del-Phis (renamed the Vels) single, "You'll Never Cherish a Love So True ('Til You Lose It)," and released it on Motown's Mel-O-Dy subsidiary. One day, Mary Wells failed to show up for a recording session, and musicians' union rules demanded that a lead vocalist be present on the mic -- so secretary Reeves was hastily tapped to sing "I'll Have to Let Him Go." That song went on to become the first single credited to the newly renamed Martha & the Vandellas in 1963; their second single, the ballad "Come and Get These Memories," reached the R&B Top Five.

The rest, of course, was history. Martha & the Vandellas racked up an impressive slate of Motown classics that included the Top Five smashes "(Love Is Like A) Heat Wave" and "Dancing in the Street," plus "Nowhere to Run," "I'm Ready for Love," "Jimmy Mack," and "Honey Chile," all of which made the R&B Top Five. Despite the occasional personnel turnover, and the fact that rivals the Supremes had become Motown's female group of choice, Martha & the Vandellas' run of success continued through 1967. Unfortunately, feeling the pressure to keep up, Reeves developed an addiction to prescription drugs, and in 1968 a bad acid trip prefigured a nervous breakdown that slowed the Vandellas' momentum even further. Although they continued to perform and record for several more years, they never matched the success of old and disbanded in December 1972 after a farewell concert in Detroit.

Meanwhile, Motown decided to transfer its offices from Detroit to Los Angeles. Reeves adamantly refused to move along with them and sued for release from her contract; she eventually won her independence and signed with MCA as a solo artist. She entered the studio with producer Richard Perry and a top session cast, and cut a monstrously expensive album that mixed rock, pop, and R&B covers, both vintage and contemporary. Martha Reeves was released in 1974 and sold very disappointingly, especially given its cost. Reeves sank deeper into a host of personal problems until she finally cleaned up and became a born-again Baptist in 1977. That year, she signed with Arista for The Rest of My Life, which blended '60s soul with disco-era production; once again, it sold poorly, and Reeves moved to Fantasy for 1978's even more disco-oriented We Meet Again, which featured four of her own compositions. After 1980's Gotta Keep Moving, Reeves gave up the ghost on her solo career. She spent the early '80s working on various Motown package tours, and eventually put together a new version of the Vandellas. In 1989, she reunited with original Vandellas Annette Sterling and Rosalind Holmes and cut the single "Step Into My Shoes" for British producer Ian Levine's Motor City label. However, she mostly continued make her living on the nostalgia circuit. Reeves was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995. ~ Steve Huey, Rovi
full bio

Comments

Report as inappropriate
kimamellor
'Dancing in the Streets' ? -- a coded call to get out to the streets and riot due to failing civil rights response in Wash.D.C. etc. Just found that out and YES MARTHA!!!
Report as inappropriate
rachvandyke
don't read this.you will be kissed by the love of your life on friday.tommo r o w will be the greatest day of your life.post this on 5 other stations and press f6 and the love of your lives name will pop up
Report as inappropriate
t_heath
Jimmy Mack is such a great song!!
Report as inappropriate
Loved them songs listening when my older siblings were jamming at parties~~~~
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love martha
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still going strong
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Motown favorite
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jrsjrsjrs57
This heatwave is getting me hot
Report as inappropriate
jrsjrsjrs57
Sweeeeet music You think
Report as inappropriate
Heat Wave...loved this song since I was a little girl. My parents would put it on and I would just start dancing....l i k e I am now
Report as inappropriate
Heat wave! Sound like a party!
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Great song .....heat wave...
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msvglove1
Jimmy ain't coming back move on
Report as inappropriate
Mom always played the songs of The Vandellas. Love all of The Motown greats.
Report as inappropriate
MARTHA REEVES WAS THE QUEEN OF MOTOWN RECORDS AND OTHER WOMANS FOLLOWED IN HER FOOTSTEPS LOVE U SMILE..
Report as inappropriate
Soo many memories of summer in JAX
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So many summertime fun filled memories! My kind of music!
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Imissmarha songsit was so hot
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Great Motown group, but not quite equal to Supremes! Heat Wave is a classic and one of my all-time favorites.
Report as inappropriate
cbwasher
I'm glad Martha & the group still perform and she back n track I still love
the music.
Report as inappropriate
pleiadian0
This was definitely Motown's finest group. With the same backing, the Supremes would have come in second place.
Pleiadian49
Report as inappropriate
I wish the artists of today would make this kind of music...
Report as inappropriate
adr74380
Love is Beautiful when you r missing somebody .
Report as inappropriate
akamui
I like this song
Report as inappropriate
akamui
Are you guys deus
Report as inappropriate
akamui
Hi
Report as inappropriate
This song is definitely a classic, too bad they don't play or make music like this anymore. This was when music actually had meaning and real talent
Report as inappropriate
johnharris48
This was a terrific song when I was in H.S. Just don't have groups like this today..what happened to talent? Now it's all stupid fluff.
Report as inappropriate
Great songs like these will outlast and outplay today's garbage by hundreds of years, and maybe indefinitely . Lady ga ga & Katy Perry will be just other costumes in the closet.
Report as inappropriate
Not better than the Supremes, but a great Motown group.
Report as inappropriate
diggin' this :)
Report as inappropriate
zoehibiscus
This song is on my list of great Motown songs. I absolutely love it. The beat is amazing and the rhythm is so catchy!
Report as inappropriate
my lovely wife mary will sing n dance to martha she has to have her martha time
Report as inappropriate
charlottewil l i a m s 1 5
how can i get kareoke of martha and the vandellas? thank you
Report as inappropriate
Great
oldies's
Report as inappropriate
what a great era! I'm glad I got to experience it. It sure is dull without it.
Report as inappropriate
I love Martha and the Vandellas great music good all the time Iam a 1965 kid and I think the music is the greatest.
Report as inappropriate
LOVE THIS SOUND OF THE TIME THE BEST!!!!
Report as inappropriate
WHAT WOULD I DO WITHOUT REEEEAAALLLL MUSIC!!!!
Report as inappropriate
This is the BEST!!!! :D
Report as inappropriate
I LOVE THESE GIRL THEY WERE JUST FANTASTIC OH SWEET MEMORIES
Report as inappropriate
LOVE THE OLD SCHOOL
Report as inappropriate
gmack6000
Greatest Soul Music Of All Time........ . . .
Report as inappropriate
GIRL BRING BACK THEM DAY'S THAT WAS THE BEST TIME OF MY LIFE GROWING UP IN THE 70 LOVE IT
Report as inappropriate
I love to hear all the girl groups from back in the day!!!!! the type of music will live on 4 ever. these ladys are in a class of their own. the motown sound is the foundation of music as we know it today.
Report as inappropriate
cd30318
who know,swhat could have happen had berry could have looked through trees
Report as inappropriate
Has made a "fool" of me many times. AMEN!!!!
Report as inappropriate
bterry82
Proud to say, I sat with her back in August '09. "Martha" is a Honorable Councilwoman for the City of Detroit, and stills preforms today.
Report as inappropriate
Martha Reeves and the Vandellas. Heat Wave still gets me hot. Gotta go tahe a cool shower. See ya later....
Report as inappropriate
t_heath
They were better than the Supremes!!!! ! !
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