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Martha Reeves is an American pop and R&B singer best remembered as the lead singer of the group Martha and the Vandellas.
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Born in Alabama in 1941, Martha Reeves grew up in Detroit and signed with Motown Records in the early 1960s. With several songs penned by famed songwriting team Holland-Dozier-Holland at the ready, Martha and the Vandellas went on to widespread pop and R&B success. Although the shadow of Diana Ross and the Supremes loomed large at the time, Martha and the Vandellas scored hit after hit,
propelling the group to fame. Songs such as "(Love Is Like a) Heat Wave," "Quicksand" and "Nowhere to Run" became staples of the era and have survived in the public consciousness long past Motown's move to Los Angeles and the Vandellas' 1972 breakup.
Martha Rose Reeves was born in Eufaula, Alabama, on July 18, 1941, but she and her family moved to Detroit, Michigan, before she reached the age of 1. Reeves sang in her grandfather's church and in school while growing up and worked on her singing throughout her four years at Northeastern High School, where she was a singing sensation. She graduated in 1959 and joined a girl group called the Fascinations, and, a year later, co-founded the Del-Phis with friends Annette Beard and Rosalind Holmes. The group soon cut its first single and signed a contract with Motown's Mel-O-Dy Records, and Reeves also landed a secretarial job at the label.
Martha Reeves caught her next break when her group was picked to sing backup on Marvin Gaye's 1963 song "Stubborn Kinda Fellow," which went on to be a smash hit. The following year, Martha and the Vandellas, as they were now known, recorded their own major single, "I'll Have to Let Him Go," when the singer originally slated to record the song didn't show up for the session. "Come and Get These Memories," a song penned by famed songwriting and production team Holland-Dozier-Holland (Lamont Dozier and brothers Brian Holland and Eddie Holland), made it to No. 5 on the R&B chart and began a prosperous collaboration between the songwriters and the group.
Martha and the Vandellas' second hit, another HDH song, was the timeless "(Love Is Like a) Heat Wave," which became a phenomenon, climbing the Hot 100 chart to No. 4 and hittin No. 1 on the R&B singles chart. The single sold more than a million copies and earned the group its only Grammy Award nomination (best R&B vocal performance by a duo or group). The ball really rolling now, "Heat Wave" was followed by "Quicksand," also penned by HDH. The song reached No. 8 on the pop charts in 1963, and the group was wrestling back some of the spotlight from the Supremes, the new reigning girl group of the time.
The hits certainly didn't stop there for Martha and the Vandellas. "Dancing in the Street" rose to No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1964 (it was reissued five years later and became one of the biggest Motown singles ever released). What followed, between 1964 and 1967, was a rash of Top 40 hits, including "Nowhere to Run" (No. 8), "My Baby Loves Me" (No. 22; R&B No. 3), "I'm Ready for Love" (Mo. 9; R&B No. 2) and "Jimmy Mack" (No.
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They make music with instruments they were born with - their voices. Gifted vocalists have entertained audiences across musical genres from the tour de force arias of Luciano Pavarotti to the classic crooning of Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett to the soulful vocals of artists like Aretha Franklin and Mahalia Jackson. With their powerful lyricism, singers like Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson and Bruce Springsteen became poet laureates of American music while artists including Joan Baez and Joe Strummer used their voices to prompt social change while they entertained. Rockers from Elvis Presley to The Beatles to Kurt Cobain helped define their generations through their songs while icons like Michael Jackson, Cher and Whitney Houston shaped pop culture with their larger-than-life voices and personas. See these and more famous singers who have struck a chord in musical history.
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