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Gladys Horton, lead singer of the Marvelettes, dies

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

VIDEOS : There wouldn’t have been a Supremes or a Martha Reeves and the Vandellas if not for the Marvelettes. They had the perfect name, considering their talents, and the perfect singer: Gladys Horton, who 50 years ago sang lead on what became Motown Records’ very first chart topper, “Please Mr. Postman,” died this week.

Gladys Horton

In a statement released by the Los Angeles chapter of the Motown Alumni Association (not affiliated with the record label), Horton’s son said she hadn’t recovered following a stroke.

One of the sweet aspects of the obituary is that no one could say for sure whether the orphaned singer she was 64 or 65. However, anyone who heard her could say Gladys had a gift — and a sweet story, unlike many you hear about Sixties singers.

Gladys Catherine Horton went to a suburban Michigan high school, where she got Katherine Anderson (now Schaffner), Georgeanna Tillman, Juanita Cowart and recent graduate Georgia Dobbins to create the Casinyets.

As in: “can’t sing yet.”

Although they lost a talent contest for an audition at Motown, label founder Berry Gordy Jr. listened anyway. When he told them they needed original material, Dobbins rewrote a blues number by a friend about a girl hoping to hear “from my boyfriend so far away.“

Dobbins had to leave the group, rechristened the Marvelettes, and Gladys ended up delivering that familiar line: “De-liver de let-ter, de sooner de bet-ter”:

The Beatles quickly covered it, and so did the Carpenters, a decade and a half later.

Gladys left the group in 1967 after becoming pregnant with the first of three boys. But those six years produced some remarkable tunes, most of them written by Smokey Robinson:

“Beechwood 4-5789”

“Don’t Mess With Bill”:



The Marvelettes also had the distinction of delivering an ahead-of-its-time composition by Robinson, a song with mature, adult lyrics and a sound unlike any produced by Motown to that point, “Hunter Gets Captured by the Game” :


(It was later recorded by Grace Jones.)

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