Mary Wells

Mary Wells

Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan, USA
Death 26 Jul 1992 (aged 49)
Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California, USA
Burial Glendale, Los Angeles County, California, USA
Plot Freedom Mausoleum, Patriots Terrace (lower floor), Corridor of the Patriots, Columbarium of the Patriots, Elevation G (right/north side wall), Indoor Mausoleum Niche #35396 (5 columns in from right corner, 4 rows up
Memorial ID 2101 · View Source
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Singer, Songwriter. She will be remembered as an American Rhythm and Blues singer from Motown Records receiving notoriety with her recordings of "My Guy” in 1964, "Two Lovers” in 1963, "You Beat Me to the Punch” in 1962 and "The One Who Really Loves You” in 1962, which all made the Top Ten on the record charts. As the first recording artist and female star at Motown Records, the first from the label to chart in the United Kingdom, the first Motown Grammy nominee and the company's most dependable hit maker in the early years, Mary Esther Wells was born to a single mother who did domestic work in order to support her three children. As a small child, she suffered a bout of spinal meningitis, which left her temporarily paralyzed, with loss of hearing, and partial blindness in one eye. While recuperating, she suffered the hardship of learning to walk again. Like many African-American singers, Wells' musical roots can be traced back to the church where she began singing around age three or four. By the age of ten, she began singing in local clubs and talent contests. While attending Northwestern High School, she sang in the choir. As a teenager Wells wrote a song called "Bye Bye Baby" for singer Jackie Wilson. At the age of sixteen, she went to recording producer Berry Gordy Jr.'s opening audition at the fledgling Motown Records. Not only was her song purchase but Gordy signed Wells to a recording contract. Her debut single "Bye Bye Baby" reached #45 on the Pop charts and # 8 on the R & B charts in 1960.She began a fruitful singing and songwriting partnership with Smokey Robinson. Robinson did write her most successful songs including her number hit “My Guy.” She performed in successful duets, such as “Once Upon a Time” with Marvin Gaye. The English group, the Beatles, held a great deal of admiration for her, declaring her their favorite American singer, calling her “their sweetheart,” and inviting her to tour with them in the United Kingdom. Upon her return to the United States, she received from the Beatles several compositions, which were released on their next recording. In return she recorded an album called “Love Songs to the Beatles.” After suing Motown Records for several hundred thousand dollars over her invalid contract, 20th Century Fox lured her away in a failed promise of a movie career. This was a turning point in her singing career as she released five songs for the 20th Century label between 1965 and 1966, but only one, “Use Your Head,” placed in the Top Forty Billboard Hits. In late 1965 she signed with Atco Recordings and had a hit, “Dear Lover,” but none of her recordings were as successful as her earlier Motown recordings. The single "Dig the Way I Feel" became a minor hit in 1969. This followed with a successful run of touring in “Golden Oldies” shows. She continue to record singles on the Reprise label between 1971 to 1974. After her 1967 marriage to her second husband, Cecil Womack, the brother of 1970s recording artist Bobby Womack, she retired in the early 1970s to be a full-time mother to her four children. In 1978 after her divorce, Wells resumed her singing career with nightclub acts and two singles for Columbia Epoc Records in 1982. In the early 1980s she recorded her biggest hits again for Allegiance Records and was featured on Motown's 25th Anniversary television special in 1983. In 1987, Wells signed with Motor City Records, and an album "Keeping My Mind On Love" was released in 1990. That same year as a two-pack-a-day cigarette smoker, she received the diagnosis of terminal cancer of the larynx leaving her unable to perform. To allay the cost of her medical expenses, she sold her Los Angeles home, but still faced financial disaster. Many of her friends, including singers Mary Wilson and Martha Reeves rallied around her, and several artist including Rod Stewart, Bruce Springsteen, Bonnie Rait and Diana Ross, provided financial assistance. Wells continued touring, appearing at several cancer fund raising events and in 1991 testified before a Congressional Committee concerning the funding for cancer research. After the complication of pneumonia, Wells was hospitalized once more and spent her last days at the Kenneth Norris, Jr. Cancer Hospital in Los Angeles, losing her battle against the illness at age 49.

Bio by: Curtis Jackson


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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Added: 31 Dec 2000
  • Find a Grave Memorial 2101
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Mary Wells (13 May 1943–26 Jul 1992), Find a Grave Memorial no. 2101, citing Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Glendale), Glendale, Los Angeles County, California, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave Cremated.