Book Review: Mary Wells

Mary Wells was one of the first female singers signed to Motown.  She quickly became known as “The Queen of Motown” and helped bring black music to the forefront of America.  She is probably most well known for her single “My Guy” but it is believed that she helped bring in millions of dollars to Motown with all of her singles.

This book is her complete biography and includes information from interviews done with Mary while she was dying of cancer in the early 90s.  While on her death bed she did these interviews as well as hired laywers to sue Motown because she was left penniless based on her contracts with the record company, despite bringing them in quite a lot of money.  Barry Gordy had given her $25,000 to help out with medical expenses but Mary still hired a lawyer.

The book chronicles her entire life – the early days when she was told that she couldn’t perform because she was “wearing a pant suit” (but after saying she would change into a dress was told that she could not perform because she was black)  Her multiple singles (the end of the book has a complete discography for her), her touring with the Beatles, her ups and downs in life, her multiple marriages, etc.

Definitely an interesting read on a woman who helped bring Motown to the forefront.

I received a free e-copy of this book from the publisher in order to write this review. I was not otherwise compensated.

About the Book

Complete with never-before-revealed details about the sex, violence, and drugs in her life, this biography reveals the incredibly turbulent life of Motown artist Mary Wells. Based in part on four hours of previously unreleased and unpublicized deathbed interviews with Wells, this account delves deeply into her rapid rise and long fall as a recording artist, her spectacular romantic and family life, the violent incidents in which she was a participant, and her abuse of drugs. From tumultuous affairs, including one with R&B superstar Jackie Wilson, to a courageous battle with throat cancer that climaxed in her gutsiest performance, this history draws upon years of interviews with Wells’s friends, lovers, and husband to tell the whole story of a woman whose songs crossed the color line and whose voice captivated the Beatles.

Peter Benjaminson is the author of The Lost Supreme: The Life of Dreamgirl Florence Ballard and The Story of Motown, and is the coauthor of Investigative Reporting. He has written numerous stories for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Detroit Free Press. He lives in New York City.

Category: Book Review
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