Mary Wells / May 13, 1943 - July 26, 1992

The songs sung by Mary Wells in the early '60s are much-loved and recognizable the world over. She grew up in poverty in Detroit with some major health issues. In fact, she took to singing to ease her problems. After singing in choirs she approached Motown as a wanna-be songwriter and Berry Gordy auditioned her as a singer, with her first record being Wells' self-penned hit "Bye Bye Baby" hitting the charts in 1960. Her first album came out in '61.

She was an early star on the growing Motown family of labels, singing hits like "My Guy", "You Beat Me To The Punch", "Two Lovers" and "The One Who Really Loves You", all credited to the pen of Smokey Robinson, whom she collaborated with from '62-64. She cut an album of duets with Marvin Gaye and toured with the Beatles before she left the label in '64. She battled Gordy in court over royalties and won before signing to 20th Century Fox in '65.

Health issues, combined with Motown strong-arming stations to NOT play her new records contributed to poor sales and a waning star. Minimal chart action with ATCO, Jubilee and Reprise led to retirement in '74. She did manage a comeback with the disco tune "Gigolo" but not much after.

Diagnosed with cancer in 1990 and broke from its costs, she sued Motown again over unpaid royalties and they settled out of court. Too little too late, she passed away in '92 at the age of 49. The bulk of her success came in a short two-year span but those songs stand as classic hits that helped Motown build its empire. Too bad they fucked her over.

Tagged: Celebrate Icons, Mary Wells, Motown, soul!

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