It’s hard to believe it that it was nearly 50 years ago that Martha Reeves first hit the charts with the bluesy, soulful “Come and Get These Memories.” It is especially hard to believe that much time has passed when Reeves hits the stage. With the unmistakable voice that helped define “the sound of young America,” dancing and strutting with an incredible energy, Reeves is a live wire. Martha Reeves and her sisters in song (and in life) Lois and Delphine, continue to heat up clubs, concert stages and music festivals across the globe, thrilling audiences and always leaving them dancing.
Their hits are legendary: the Grammy-nominated “Heat Wave,” the gospel-tinged “Nowhere to Run,” the classic soul favorite “My Baby Loves Me,” and the signature, “Dancing In The Street.”
Crowned “Motown’s ultimate soul diva,” Martha Reeves established herself as one of music’s greatest voices from the beginning. She backed Marvin Gaye on his first three hits (“Stubborn Kinda Fellow,” “Pride and Joy,” and “Hitch Hike’) and gave Holland-Dozier-Holland their first big hit with “Come and Get These Memories.” In fact, it was listening to Martha singing “Memories” that Berry Gordy came up with Motown tag line, “the sound of young America.” While the roster of Vandellas changed frequently, Reeves’ soaring soprano was the constant.
Martha’s story is a familiar one to legions of fans.
Soon after graduating from high school, Martha performed in clubs as “Martha Lavaille.” One night, Motown A&R director Mickey Stevenson heard her and invited her to audition for the then-fledgling label. The highly-motivated Reeves arrived the next morning. Upon learning that auditions had to be scheduled, she made herself valuable by answering phones and taking messages. When people say she started at Motown as a secretary, Reeves corrects them, laughing, “I was never a secretary. I was a singer who could type.”
One day, when Mary Wells missed a session, Martha stepped up to the mic and got notice and a contract. She left the A/R department to become one the most enduring and beloved stars in the Motown family.
As classics never fade, new and diverse audiences are constantly being introduced to the Martha Reeves songbook.
She has counted talents as diverse as James Brown and Beverly Sills among her duet partners. Robin Williams spun “Nowhere to Run” in Good Morning, Vietnam. Her version of the Van Morrison rocker, “Wild Night” was featured on the Thelma and Louise movie soundtrack. The boys in The Boys In The Band and Whoopi Goldberg in Sister Act 2 partied to “Heat Wave.” Everyone from Mick Jagger and David Bowie, the Mamas and the Papas, and the Grateful Dead have gone “Dancing In The Street.” Neo-soul singers such as Adele and Amy Winehouse sing her praises. The late Luther Vandross paid homage to her in his “I’ll Let You Slide.” And, most recently, Melanie Fiona sampled “Jimmy Mack” in her hit, “Please Don’t Go (Cry Baby).” Martha Reeves & the Vandellas are ranked (ahead of the Supremes) on Rolling Stone’s “100 Immortal Artists.” And MusicRadar.com recently named Martha one of the “30 greatest lead singers of all time.”
Beyond the concert stage, Reeves starred in a US tour of the Tony-winning “Ain’t Misbehavin’”, and has performed in road shows of “The Jackie Wilson Story” and “Good Black Don’t Crack.” She co-starred for three seasons in the UK stage review “Dancing In The Street,” alongside Motown peers like the late Edwin Starr, Mary Wilson, and Freda Payne. Following Starr’s death in 2003, Reeves held the spotlight alone. That same year, she made her opera debut singing with the Motor City Lyric Opera.
Reeves is the recipient of the Dinah Washington Award, a Rhythm n’ Blues Foundation Pioneer Award, a Black Woman in Publishing Legends Award, and has been inducted in the Alabama, Soul, Rock and Roll, and Vocal Group halls of fame.
Today’s Martha Reeves is fully exposed in her self-produced and critically praised CD “Home to You.” Named by The Asbury Park Press as one of the best blues/root music albums of 2004, Reeves gives both new and older fans the kind of no-frills, straightforward soul singing rarely heard on contemporary radio. From the blues funk of “Watch Your Back” to the jazzy “God Bless The Child,” to “Running For Your Love” recalling old school Motown, this Motown classic proves that she is still a powerhouse.
The disc is also the first to feature Martha with current Vandellas Delphine Reeves and Sandra Jackson (aka, Lois Reeves).
Lois became a Vandella right out of high school in 1967. She hit the road running. She debuted on the “Riding High” album, and was featured on the group’s last three Motown albums. Lois performed with the group in their Copa debut, at major venues in such as Mr. Kelly’s in Chicago, P.J.’s in Los Angeles, and the Hilton Hotel in Las Vegas, as well as national television appearances on “The Joey Bishop Show,” “The Mike Douglas Show,” and NBC 1968 special “Soul!” Her strong alto voice is heard on the rare “Live in Japan” album and the still-in-the-vault “Live at the Copa.” After the group left Motown, she joined Al Green’s backing group, Quiet Elegance, and also performed with Engelbert Humperdinck.
Delphine joined Martha and Lois in the mid 1980’s, performing across the US, in Europe and with Martha as the group made its first appearances in Australia and New Zealand. Delphine made her television debut as a Vandella on “America’s Funniest Home Videos” and has also appeared on shows such as Montel Williams, and the Jools Holland show in England.
Martha and the ladies continue to be in demand across the globe. In 2010, they were nominated for two UK Festival Awards as “Best Headliners” for their performance at the Lounge on the Farm Festival and as “Feel Good Act of the Summer” for their performance at the Vintage at Goodwood Festival. They ended 2010 with a tour of UK clubs and opened 2011 at the historic Berns Hotel in Stockholm, Switzerland. Martha recently completed a six-night sold out engagement at San Francisco’s Rrazz Room.
Martha Reeves and the Vandellas are true Motown and music legends. They will make sure that you “can’t forget the Motor City.”