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 Mary Wells

Mary Wells

Birth
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 Columbarium of the Patriots, Freedom Mausoleum, Lot 0, Space 35396
Memorial ID 2101 · View Source
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Legendary 1960's Rhythm and Blues singer from Motown Records made famous by early 60's hits "My Guy,"" Two Lovers,""You Beat me To the Punch" and "The One Who Really Loves You," which all made the Top Ten. The first artist and female star at Motown, the first from the label to chart in the U. K., the first Motown Grammy nominee and the company's most dependable hit maker in the early years. Mary Esther Wells was born in Detroit, Michigan, on May 13, 1943. Her early years were not easy growing up without a father. Her mother did domestic work in order to support her three children. As a small child, Wells suffered a bout of spinal meningitis, which left her temporarily paralyzed, with loss of hearing, and partial blindness in one eye. When she returned to good health 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. At age 10, 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 legendary singer Jackie Wilson. At age 16 she went with the song to the fledgling Motown Records and producer Berry Gordy, Jr. who were having open auditions. Gordy not only bought the song, he 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. Legendary singer Smokey Robinson for whom she had a singing and songwriting partnership, which was to be very fruitful in the following years began to write songs for Wells. He wrote and produced her biggest Motown hits "Two Lovers" (1963), "You Beat Me to the Punch" (1962) and "The One Who Really Loves You" (1962), and her career peaked when " My Guy" hit the number one spot in mid-1964. She also had success with some duets, such as "Once Upon a Time," which she did with the soulful Marvin Gaye. The Beatles had a great deal of admiration for Wells, declaring her their favorite American singer, calling her "their sweetheart"and invited her to the U. K. to tour with them. Upon her return to the states, the Beatles sent Wells several compositions to be released on their next album. In return, she recorded and album called "Love songs to the Beatles." After suing Motown over her invalid contract 20th Century Fox soon lured Wells away with several hundred thousand dollars from Motown with false promises of a movie career. She released five songs on the 20th Century label in 1965 and 1966 but only one, "Use Your Head," made the top forty. In late 1965, she signed with Atco and had a hit with "Dear Lover," but none of her subsequent records were successful as her Motown recordings. The single "Dig the Way I Feel" became a minor hit in 1969. In 1970, Wells retired from performing to raise her four children while married for a while to her second husband Cecil Womack, brother of 70's recording star Bobby Womack with whom she had married in 1967. The pair wrote and produced much of her 60's and 70's output. Next, Wells had a successful run playing with touring oldies shows. She had a fanatical following and was very well liked by people in the music business. She did continue to record with singles on Reprise in 1971 and 1974. Wells resumed her career in 1978 doing nightclub acts and recorded two singles for Columbia/Epoc n 1982. In the early 80's, she re-recorded her biggest hits for Allegiance Records and was featured on Motown's twenty-fifth 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. Tha t same year it was discovered that Wells a two pack a day smoker had terminal cancer of the larynx which left her unable to sing. This unfourtunate turning point in her life was a financial diaster for her. To cover her medical expenses she sold her home in Los Angeles and had to resort to support from the fledging Rhythm and Blues Foundation. 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, appeariing at several cancer fund raising events and in 1991 testified before a Congressional Committee concerning the funding for cancer research. After a bout 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 on July 26, 1992, at age 49.

Bio by: Curtis Jackson


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"Our loving mother"


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 1 Jan 2001
  • Find A Grave Memorial 2101
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : 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.