The Rise and Fall of Motown's Mary Wells

Peter Benjaminson (Courtesy of Peter Benjaminson); Mary Wells cover

(The Root) — In the biography Mary Wells: The Tumultuous Life of Motown's First Superstar, author Peter Benjaminson unravels the turbulent life and career of one of Motown's greatest vocalists.

During the early '60s, Wells was the Detroit label's top female singer. She had several big hits including the Smokey Robinson-penned songs "You Beat Me to the Punch" and "Two Lovers." Her most famous tune, however, was the chipper fidelity anthem "My Guy." The song topped the charts in 1964, and later the Beatles, who famously became diehard Wells fans, invited her to tour with them.


The singer had a dark side, too, which Benjaminson recalls in juicy detail. Wells often dabbled in drugs and alcohol; her tale is one of great musical accomplishments as well as tragic moments, including a suicide attempt and a staged kidnapping. Plus, her decision to leave Motown essentially resulted in her having fewer chances for mainstream hits and a longer career. Benjaminson traces her up-and-down career through revealing interviews from some of Wells' closest companions and a previously unreleased, four-hour interview by Wells right before her death of cancer in 1992.

Mary Wells: The Tumultuous Life of Motown's First Superstar is available online and in stores.

Previous recommendation: Robert Glasper Plays Stevie Wonder Songs.

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