Personalities | Martha Reeves & The Vandellas | Sixties | Rock

(Vocal group, 1963–72)

Two lucky breaks for Motown secretary Martha and friends Annette Beard and Rosalind Ashford launched their career: covering for absent backing singers on the 1962 session for Marvin Gaye’s ‘Stubborn Kind Of Fellow’, and taking the lead vocal on ‘I’ll Have To Let Him Go’ when Mary Wells did not show in 1963. Taking their name from raunchy gospel singer Della Reese, The Vandellas were the earthy alternative to Motown’s girl-group sophisticates The Supremes, making pop and R&B Top 10s with Holland-Dozier-Holland belters like ‘Heatwave’, ‘Dancing In The Streets’ and ‘Jimmy Mack’.

By 1967, the pressure to compete took its toll in drug addiction and depression, and The Vandellas dissolved in 1972. After attempts at a solo disco career in the late 1970s, Reeves concentrated on the oldies circuit. Her first album in 24 years, 2004’s Home To You, found her in remarkably good voice.

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Source: The Definitive Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock, general editor Michael Heatley


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