Born in Alabama on July 18, 1941, Martha Reeves developed her passion for music by singing gospel songs in church and later becoming a fan of R&B and doo-wop after her family moved to Detroit when she was a child. It was a fortunate move, because it put Reeves smack in the middle of the Motown scene just as it was taking off. She first worked at the label as an administrative assistant, then filled in on other artists’ recording sessions, before eventually forming Martha and The Vandellas and having hits of her own.
And what hits they were. Strident, energetic, expertly played and produced, like so many other great Motown songs - they jumped out of hi-fis and AM radios and soundtracked countless dances and dance parties. Martha and The Vandellas had a dozen Top 40 pop hits in total, with six impacting the Top 10, and after the group had run its course, Reeves launched a solo career that found her employing her voice in contemporary settings and sounding just as great as ever.
Let’s listen to some great Martha Reeves tunes, shall we?
“Dancing in the Street”: A global call to party - something we all need now and then. A song so cool even rock acts like the Kinks, Van Halen, Mick Jagger and David Bowie covered it.
“Nowhere to Run”: This 1965 smash is urgency set to music; it’s also got a great, danceable groove.
“(Love is Like a) Heat Wave”: This 1963 single was Martha and The Vandellas’ first big hit - Top 5 pop and No. 1 on the R&B chart.
"Wild Night": Reeves covered this Van Morrison hit in 1974; it got a second life with its prominent placement in the 1991 film Thelma and Louise.
“Love Strong Enough to Move Mountains”: Reeves’ gospel background really comes through on this mighty 1977 track.