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Martha & the Vandellas

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Along with the Supremes, Martha & the Vandellas defined the distaff side of the Motown sound in the '60s. Their biggest hits, including "Heat Wave," "Dancing in the Street," and "Nowhere to Run," remain among the most potent and enduring dance records of the era. The vocal group was led by Martha Reeves who, along with fellow Detroit natives Annette Sterling Beard, Gloria Williams, and Rosalind Ashford, founded the Del-Phis in 1960. After Reeves landed a secretarial position at the offices of Motown Records, the Del-Phis were tapped to record a one-off single for the label's Melody imprint, which they cut under the name the Vels. The single fizzled, and Williams exited, reducing the group to a trio. After backing Marvin Gaye on the superb 1962 record "Stubborn Kind of Fellow," they were renamed Martha & the Vandellas, taking inspiration from Detroit's Van Dyke Street and Reeves' heroine, Della Reese. When singer Mary Wells failed to show up for a recording date, musicians' union rules demanded that a vocalist be found to fulfill contractual obligations. As a result, Reeves was yanked from the secretarial pool and laid down what would become Martha & the Vandellas' first record, 1963's "I'll Have to Let Him Go." The Top 30 success of the ballad "Come and Get These Memories" brought the group the attention of Motown's hit-making production team Holland-Dozier-Holland, who crafted their next smash, the galvanizing Top Five classic "Heat Wave," which perfected the mix of impassioned call-and-response vocals, pulsing rhythms, and full-bodied horns that became the trio's trademark. Following another Top Ten hit, "Quicksand," Beard retired, and was replaced by former Velvelette Betty Kelly. After singer Kim Weston turned down the Marvin Gaye/Ivy Jo Hunter/Mickey Stevenson composition "Dancing in the Street," the song was shuttled to Martha & the Vandellas; refashioned by Holland-Dozier-Holland to fit the group's formula, the anthem became their biggest hit and definitive statement, reaching number two in the summer of 1964. A year later, they returned with another smash, the savage "Nowhere to Run," followed by "I'm Ready for Love." In 1967, Kelly exited, and was replaced by Reeves' younger sister Lois; on subsequent releases, the group was billed as Martha Reeves & the Vandellas. 1967's "Jimmy Mack" and "Honey Chile" were the last records overseen by the Holland-Dozier-Holland team before their defection from Motown, and were also the final significant Vandellas hits. In 1968, Martha Reeves fell seriously ill, and in 1969 Ashford departed, with another former Velvelette, Sandra Tilley, assuming her position. The trio continued unsuccessfully for a few more years before breaking up in the wake of a December 1972 farewell performance at Detroit's Cobo Hall. After Motown relocated its corporate offices to Los Angeles (a move Reeves denied she was privy to), the singer, who had begun a solo career, sued to have her contract with the label annulled. In her 1994 autobiography, Dancing in the Street, she charged that the Vandellas' career, though highly successful in its own right, could have been even greater had Motown founder Berry Gordy, Jr. given their music the same obsessive attention he afforded to Diana Ross & the Supremes. Reeves recorded her debut solo effort, Martha Reeves, for MCA in 1974. Though a few more LPs followed, including 1976's The Rest of My Life and 1978's We Meet Again, she received little notice on her own, and eventually suffered a pair of nervous breakdowns that led to a brief period of institutionalization. Lois Reeves, meanwhile, went on to work with Al Green, while Sandra Tilley retired from music; she died in 1982 following surgery on a brain tumor. In 1989, Martha Reeves, Annette Beard, and Rosalind Ashford successfully sued Motown for back royalties, and occasionally reunited for performances in the '90s. Reeves also continued as a solo artist, and in addition performed with a Vandellas unit consisting of Lois and a third sister, Delphine. She released another solo album, the independent Home to You, in 2004. From 2005 through 2009, she served on Detroit's city council. Afterward, she aligned with a non-profit organization to help musicians receive royalties, and she continued to be an active performer with the Vandellas. ~ Jason Ankeny
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Albums by
Martha & the Vandellas

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    13 songs

    On Air

    Martha and the Vandellas Live

    12 songs

    On Air

    Come and Get These Memories

    11 songs

    On Air

    Heat Wave

    12 songs

    On Air

    Natural Resources

    12 songs

    On Air

    Ridin' High

    12 songs

    On Air

    Dancing in the Street

    12 songs

    On Air

    Sugar n' Spice

    12 songs

    On Air

    Watchout!

    82 songs

    On Air

    50th Anniversary: The Singles Collection 1962-1972

    11 songs

    On Air

    Black Magic

    14 songs

    On Air

    Martha Reeves & the Vandellas

    10 songs

    On Air

    Winning Combinations (Universal)

    1 song

    On Air

    Martha Reeves & the Vandellas

    18 songs

    On Air

    The Definitive Collection

    47 songs

    On Air

    Spellbound: Motown Lost & Found

    11 songs

    On Air

    20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Martha Reeves and the Vandellas

    25 songs

    On Air

    The Ultimate Collection

    16 songs

    On Air

    Heatwave - The Early Hits

    4 songs

    On Air

    Heat Wave

    14 songs

    On Air

    Heatwave Best of Martha Reeves and the Vandellas

    1 song

    On Air

    Heat Wave

    1 song

    On Air

    Dancing In the Street [Live On the Ed Sullivan Show]

    12 songs

    On Air

    Dance Party [Lilith]

    12 songs

    On Air

    Dance Party

See All Albums

Top Songs by
Martha & the Vandellas

  1.   Song
    Popularity
  2.   Dancing in the Street
  3.   (Love Is Like A) Heat Wave
  4.   Nowhere to Run
  5.   Jimmy Mack by Martha Reeves & The Vandellas
  6.   I'm Ready for Love
  7.   Come and Get These Memories
  8.   Quicksand
  9.   Honey Chile
  10.   Love (Makes Me Do Foolish Things)
  11.   My Baby Loves Me
  12.   A Tear for the Girl
  13.   Willie D featuring Martha Reeves
  14.   Live Wire
  15.   We Will
  16.   You'll Never Cherish a Love So True ('Til You Lose It)
  17.   Lone Lonely Town
  18.   Dance Party
  19.   In and Out of My Life
  20.   Keep It Up
  21.   You Can Have Him
  22.   Start With Joy in the Morning
  23.   Tell Me I'll Never Be Alone
  24.   Dancig in the Street
  25.   Third Finger, Left Hand
  26. See All Songs

Stations & Shows Featuring
Martha & the Vandellas

    On Air

    Legends Of Motown

    On Air

    55 Best Motown Songs

    On Air

    Oldies

    On Air

    Girl Power: The 35 Greatest Girl Groups

    On Air

    '60s Hits

    On Air

    John Newman: I Am The DJ

    On Air

    All-Time Top 55 Songs of Summer

    On Air

    66 Songs That Changed Everything

    On Air

    Classic Soul

    On Air

    Sweating to the Oldies

    On Air

    Euphoric Hits

    On Air

    4th of July Celebration

    On Air

    '60s Deep Dive

    On Air

    Dad's Kitchen

    On Air

    Funk Classics