Gladys Horton, lead singer of what was really Motown’s original group, the Marvelettes, died yesterday. She was 66. Among the hit records she sang on: “Please Mr. Postman,” “Beachwood 4-5789,” “Don’t Mess with Bill,” “The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game,” and so many more.
Horton was 15 when she and her high school friends, whom she’d dubbed “The Marvelettes,” had Motown’s first #1 hit in 1961. “Please Mr. Postman” was later covered by the Beatles, and in 1975, the Carpenters, each of whom had memorable recordings. But the original is the best.
I think the most shocking thing about Horton’s death is her age. Why is it that so few Motown artists have lived into their late 60s? It’s almost like a curse. Whether it was drugs or disease, the Motown label has the worst mortality rate in music history. Marvin Gaye, Florence Ballard, Mary Wells, Levi Stubbs, nearly all of the Temptations and Four Tops, Tammi Terrell, Michael Jackson– none of them have lived into old age.
But we do still have Stevie, Smokey, Diana, Mary Wilson, Gladys and Bubba Knight, and the Miracles.
Rest in peace, Gladys. (She’s on the right in this 1966 photo.)