Mary Wells

Mary Wells will always be remembered for one of the biggest hits in the rise of Motown during the 1960s with the impossibly infectious, feel-good single My Guy, a Smokey Robinson song that topped the US charts for seven weeks and was instrumental in popularising the Motown sound outside the USA. She also famously toured with The Beatles and recorded a successful album with fellow Motown artist, Marvin Gaye. Yet, brought up in near poverty in Detroit suffering badly from ill-health, she initially took up singing as an escape from her problems and started performing in night clubs. At 17 she approached Motown boss Berry Gordy because she'd written the song Bye Bye Baby and thought it would suit Jackie Wilson. Gordy insisted she sing the song in front of him and was so impressed he invited her to record it herself. The single became a minor hit single in 1961, and she went on to become the first female Motown act to break into the US Top 40 with a doo-wop song I Don't Want To Take A Chance. She was then teamed with Smokey Robinson and they wrote her first smash hit The One Who Really Loves You together, followed by You Beat Me To The Punch and Two Lovers. In 1964, however, My Guy eclipsed them all and The Beatles - who named Wells their favourite singer - took her on tour with them. A contractual argument with Berry Gordy led to her departure from Motown and she signed to Atlantic, but failed to recreate her earlier success. She returned to the charts in 1981 with the disco single Gigolo and continued to work until struck down by throat cancer in the early 1990s, she died in 1992 aged 49.

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