Wanda Young, Singer for the Marvelettes, Dead at 78
Wanda Young, who found fame as the lead singer of the classic R&B group the Marvelettes, has died at the age of 78.
“We are so saddened by the news of Wanda Young of the Marvelettes passing,” noted a message posted to Twitter by the Classic Motown label. “What an impact she has had on the world of Classic Motown and the lives of so many. Her legacy will continue to live on.”
“A very sad day for our [Motown] family and music fans all over the world,” former Motown labelmate Claudette Robinson wrote in a message of her own. “Wanda was a star on Earth and now she is a star in Heaven. Put on some Marvelettes and turn it up.”
Born in Inkster, Mich. in 1943, Young didn’t set her sights on a singing career until high school. In 1961, classmate Gladys Horton, co-founder of the singing group then-called the Marvels, recruited Young to join after original member Georgia Dobbins departed. Young got the gig, and later that year the Marvelettes (as they were now called) scored their first big hit with “Please Mr. Postman.”
Watch the Marvelettes Perform 'Please Mr. Postman'
The single hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and spent seven weeks atop the R&B chart. It would later be covered by such famed acts as the Beatles and the Carpenters.
Throughout her early tenure in the group, Young would split vocal duties with Horton. Hits that featured Young as the lead vocalist included “I’ll Keep Holding On,” “Don’t Mess With Bill” and "The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game." By the late ‘60s, Young was regarded as the group’s primary lead vocalist.
Watch the Marvelettes Perform 'Don't Mess With Bill'
The Marvelettes broke up in 1970, with Young releasing her debut solo album later that year. The Smokey Robinson-produced LP The Return of the Marvelettes was met with poor sales and ruffled feathers with Young’s former bandmates who were unhappy with its title. Young soon left Motown and stepped away from the music industry.
In the late 1980s, Young reunited with Horton on the album The Marvelettes...Now! (released in 1990). The group would later earn enshrinement in the Rhythm & Blues Foundation’s Hall of Fame and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame. They have also been nominated for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame on two occasions: 2013 and 2015.