ARTIST OF THE WEEK
This is the voice which gives Motown its first three consecutive Top 10 pop hits by one single artist, and the vehicle for the compelling early songs of Smokey Robinson. Mary Wells will always be Berry Gordy’s first solo superstar, and “My Guy,” in particular, will endure as one of his company’s most endearing anthems.
- Motown Milestone: The biggest-selling album by the company’s first female star is (what else?) Greatest Hits, released April 15, 1964 as “My Guy” heads for Number One.
- First hit: “Bye Bye Baby”
- Biggest hit: “My Guy”
- Top album: Greatest Hits
- Career highlight: adored by The Beatles, a love which money can’t buy
- The following year, Mary is placed into the magic hands of the Miracles’ leader, Smokey Robinson, who creates for her a series of tender love songs of notable maturity. The first three hit the Top 10 of the Billboard pop charts with barely a pause: “The One Who Really Loves You,” “You Beat Me To The Punch” and “Two Lovers.”
- In 1963, another quartet of Mary’s recordings scale the best-sellers, including two Top 30 crossover tunes on one 45: “What’s Easy For Two Is So Hard For One” and “You Lost The Sweetest Boy.” The former is one more swirling gem authored by Smokey, the latter a neo-gospel rave-up from the pens of new hitmakers Holland/Dozier/Holland.
- Mary reaches her career pinnacle with 1964’s “My Guy,” a Smokey song of such smooth sophistication, such finger-snapping soulfulness, that it travels all the way to No. 1 during the British invasion. Moreover, the record becomes Motown’s first success in other lands, including the U.K. and Australia. Adding to the luster is the fact that the world-conquering Beatles cite Mary as one of their favorite artists.
- Motown continues to execute ambitious plans for their queen, including an album’s partnership with Marvin Gaye, preceded by a double-sided hit duet, “What’s The Matter With You Baby” and “Once Upon A Time.” Yet Mary and husband Herman Griffin decide to entertain offers from elsewhere as she turns 21 and “My Guy” reaches its peak. The singer quits for another record company, and gets ready for a British tour in the fall with her admirers from Liverpool. Meanwhile, Motown turns its attention to a trio of would-be princesses of pop: The Supremes.
- “My Guy” is subsequently inducted into the Grammy® Hall of Fame and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, bestowing equal glory on the songwriter and the singer. Mary Wells deserves the recognition, and no one connected with Motown, least of all Smokey Robinson, begrudges that.