Syreeta Wight is an artist of considerable stature whose experience while recording for Motown is unparalleled: office secretary, demo singer, muse/first wife/co-writer to Stevie Wonder, solo songwriter, cult soul artist, pop star. She records a string of singles and albums for Motown in the 1960s and 1970s but individual fame doesn’t materialise until she works with Billy Preston on the duet “With You I’m Born Again” for the otherwise forgettable film Fast Break. Though effectively retired from music by the 1990s her early death in 2004 is a shock for fans of her deep soul sound.
- First Hit: “Your Kiss Is Sweet”
- Biggest Hit: “With You I’m Born Again” (with Preston)
- Top Album: Syreeta
- Career Highlight: The surprise success of her duet with Preston
- Born Syreeta Wright in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, August 3, 1946 she gravitates from front-of-house receptionist at Motown in 1965 to secretary for Mickey Stevenson and then as an assigned artist who Berry Gordy considers as a replacement in the Supremes for Diana Ross, though that gig goes to Jean Terrell.
- As “Rita Wright” she is best known at 1960s Motown for the 1968 single “I Can’t Give Back The Love I Feel For You.”
- Her personal and professional relationship with Stevie Wonder begins in earnest when she sings back up on and co-writes “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours,” a song marking the end of Wonder’s old-school soul sound.
- The first fruits of the new sound arrive with Wonder’s Where I’m Coming From, which features a Stevie-Syreeta duet that is, ironically, a throwback soul/pop classic: “If You Really Love Me.”
- For Wonder’s album Music Of My Mind, Syreeta co-writes “Love Having You Around” and adds vital vocal flourishes, notably to “Sweet Little Girl” and the funk masterpiece “Keep On Running.”
- Her self-titled debut album on MoWest in 1972 is produced by Wonder and the synthesizer wizards Robert Margouleff and Malcolm Cecil. Wonder duets with Syreeta on “To Know You Is To Love You,” which is later covered by B.B. King. Also on the LP: “I Love Every Little Thing About You,” a female version of the tune on Music Of My Mind, and the ballad “Black Maybe,” soon to be interpreted as a haunting instrumental by Freddie Hubbard.
- Stevie Wonder Presents: Syreeta (1974) is more directly collaborative with Wonder, as he writes or co-writes with Syreeta all of the songs, and sings on several tracks. The album also features a duet with G.C. Cameron, a preview of the album they would do together. Her track “Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers,” like “Black Maybe,” becomes a haunting instrumental, as covered by Jeff Beck.
- One To One (1977) is an African-inspired follow-up three years in the making, mostly produced by Leon Ware, who was then becoming known as the producer of Marvin Gaye’s “I Want You.” But the LP’s lone hit, “Harmour Love,” is written and produced by Stevie Wonder.
- Rich Love, Poor Love (with Cameron) and a period of collaborating with Preston keep her current but the GRAMMY®-nominated Set My Love In Motion makes bigger inroads on the R&B charts. Her final American hit is the duet with Preston, “With You I’m Born Again.” It makes no. 4 pop and no 2 Adult Contemporary in the U.S., and no. 2 in the U.K.
- Jermaine Jackson produces her final Motown album, The Spell (1983) where she reunites with Wonder on several cuts, notably the single “Forever Is Not Enough.”