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On this date in 1943, Mary Wells was born. She was a Black soul singer.
Born in Detroit, Mary Esther Wells began singing at the age of ten. In 1961 when she was about 18, she approached Berry Gordy (Motown Records founder) and convinced him to record her version of the song "Bye Bye Baby." That recording, released as a single that year began a long and prosperous career with Motown. She became famous for her solo vocals, touring the world with the Motown Revue.
Smokey Robinson wrote and produced her biggest Motown hits "Two Lovers," "You Beat Me to the Punch," and "The One Who Really Loves" You all made the Top Ten in the early '60s, and "My Guy" hit the number one spot in mid-1964. Wells also recorded with the Supremes, the Temptations, and Smokey Robinson. In 1964, she left Motown, signing a number of contracts with other labels, including Twentieth Century Fox Records, Atco, and Jubilee, but she never achieved the same success that she had in her hometown. Wells was married to Cecil Womack, and in the 1970’s stopped performing to raised her four children.
Wells resumed her career in 1978, doing nightclub acts and was featured on Motown’s 25th anniversary television show in 1983. In 1990 Wells, a smoker, was diagnosed with terminal cancer of the larynx. This unfortunate turning point in her life was a financial disaster 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. Mary Wells died July 26, 1992.
ACSAP Biographical Dictionary
R. R. Bowker Co., Copyright 1980