Motown star Martha Reeves on life as a star

December 2016

Fans of Motown the Musical, which is supported by Bruno Wang Productions, will be fascinated by revelations from Martha Reeves, one of Motown’s leading ladies, about life at the record label.

Reeves, 75, who is currently touring the UK, and presenting on BBC Radio 2, is best known for her exuberant hits Nowhere to Run, Dancing in the Street and (Love is Like a) Heat Wave which she recorded with the Vandellas.

But, she revealed in a recent interview with the Daily Telegraph, that her favourite memory is when she served time in 1962, as a backing singer, on Marvin Gaye’s Stubborn Kind of Fellow.

“I’d never got a good look at Marvin Gaye before then,” Reeves said. “He used to wear a hat pulled down over his eyes; he wore sunglasses all the time, and he always had a pipe in his mouth – don’t ask me what was in that pipe! You couldn’t see how good-looking he was. But when we went in to sing on Stubborn Kind of Fellow, he took off that hat and those sunglasses and pipe, and we went ‘Doop do-doop, wow! Yeah, yeah, yeah!’”

Reeves gives a pitch-perfect rendition of the song’s opening chorus, then dissolves into laughter. “Because he was so fine! I think he was the handsomest man I ever got close to!”

The singer admitted she didn’t meet Berry Gordy, who founded Motown, for three months after she joined the label in 1961. “I just knew that everybody revered him. You’d hear the different producers talking – ‘Hey man, Berry really likes it but he says we’ve got to put horns on it…’, do this or that. Everything was moulded to Berry Gordy’s taste. He’s the man that created the Motown sound.”