THE FIRST BOOK EVER WRITTEN ABOUT THE ORIGINAL MOTOWN SUPERSTAR CHRONICLES THE
LIFE, LOVES AND LOST CAREER OF MARY WELLS.
In 1960, a 17-year-old Mary Wells approached Motown founder Berry Gordy at a Detroit nightclub
with an original song and enough nerve to sing it for him on the spot. In the years that followed,
Wells would become Motown's first solo superstar. While the Supremes were still picking up jobs
as backup singers, Wells's signature hit, "My Guy," was topping the charts --- even briefly
surpassing the Beatles --- becoming one of the first Motown songs to cross the color line into
However, the same spirited self-determination that brought Wells fame would also inspire her to
leave Motown at age 21 --- and spend the rest of her life fighting to get back to the top.
In the first book ever written about Motown's original superstar, "Mary Wells: The Tumultuous Life
of Motown's First Superstar" (Chicago Review Press, November, 2012) author Peter Benjaminson
delves deeply into her rapid rise and long fall as a recording artist, her spectacular romantic and
family life and her Motown hits that charmed the world. Based in part on four hours of previously
unreleased deathbed interviews with Wells, "Mary Wells" reveals the incredibly turbulent life of one
of the most important figures in early Motown history.
Growing up in a rundown Detroit neighborhood, Wells went on to make a string of hit singles under
Motown --- including "Two Lovers" and the Grammy-nominated "You Beat Me to the Punch"
---composed mainly by Smokey Robinson. At the peak of her fame, she recorded a duet with rising
star Marvin Gaye and toured in the UK with the Beatles,who became captivated by the soulful young
singer. After merely fours years, however, Wells had come to consider herself hard-done by the
company that had plucked her from obscurity. In a move that would reveal for the first time that all
was not sweetness and light at America's first major black-owned music company, Wells broke her
contract and left Motown.
Even without Motown backing her, Wells had a ferocious belief in her own talent, and she never
stopped performing. "Mary Wells" tells of her life on the road as "Queen of the Oldies," etching out
a living on her voice alone,rather than on records or royalties. Having interviewed Wells's friends,
lovers and husbands, author Peter Benjaminson also shares the never-before-revealed details of
the violence in her life, her abuse of drugs and alcohol and her romantic entanglements with
several singers and songwriters, including two of the well-known Womack brothers. At the end of
her life, Wells fell victim to throat cancer and spent her last few months testifying before the US
Congress about the need to continue funding anti-cancer research.
Mary Wells helped define Motown's emerging sound in the 1960s, preparing the stage for many
female Motown vocalists. In "Mary Wells," the first complete account of the singer's life, Peter
Benjaminson reintroduces Wells in all her glamour.