Peter Benjaminson

Mary Wells

The Tumultuous Life of Motown's First Superstar

Chicago Review Press 2012

New Books in African American StudiesNew Books in American StudiesNew Books in Arts & LettersNew Books in MusicNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books Network March 9, 2013 Matt Smith Lehrman

Who is Motown’s first real star? The answer, of course, is Mary Wells, singer of such classics as “My Guy,” “Bye Bye Baby,” “The...

Who is Motown’s first real star? The answer, of course, is Mary Wells, singer of such classics as “My Guy,” “Bye Bye Baby,” “The One Who Really Loves You,” “You Beat Me to the Punch,” and “Two Lovers,” among others. All of these hits were released in just four years between 1960 and 1969. In Mary Wells: The Tumultuous Life of Motown’s First Superstar (Chicago Review Press, 2012) author Peter Benjaminson chronicles the life of this singular performer from her early days as a young rock ‘n’ roll diva to her last years struggling with cancer. Along the way we learn that Wells was a tireless performer. She never stopped touring, never stopped reaching for the brass ring of financial success that eluded her for much of her career. It seems she never did receive the money she felt she deserved for the songs she released for Motown, while the record company appeared to rake in a handsome profit. She left Motown in 1964, released records with a number of different labels over the next twenty-six years, and finally received a paltry $100,000 from a law suit she filed against Motown in the late eighties. Whatever the case, Benjaminson shows well how Mary Wells star still shines bright. Her songs are known by most everyone, they are ingrained in the American popular psyche.

Peter Benjaminson is the author of The Lost Supreme: The Life of Dreamgirl Florence Ballard, The Story of Motown, and co-author of Investigative Reporting. He has written numerous articles for the Detroit Free Press and Atlanta Journal-Constitution among others.

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