“You know, after six decades, the band and I are still playing that Motown sound and loving it,” Martha Reeves, now a 73 year-old great grandmother, began.

“I am having a wonderful time and just feel so blessed and lucky,” she continued. “I really love performing in the UK. You know, there are many of my songs that are better recognised in the UK than in the States...B-sides as A-sides. I'll be singing all my hits plus many other songs, too. I don't have a favourite song, though. To me, my songs are like children - and you mustn't have a favourite. I enjoy singing them all. The crowds will have a great time and I will too,"

Although Martha was born in Alabama, her family had moved to Detroit before her first birthday. Her father was a minister at Detroit's Metropolitan Church and he and her mother Ruby both sang and played guitar. Martha was the third of eleven children and the whole Reeves family were raised surrounded by music - gospel, soul and some blues. Martha was coached in choral singing from a young age and performed in her high school choir. “All that was a wonderful background – and I learned to read and write music, too” Martha recalled.

“My mom had a great voice and even now sometimes when I am singing I can still hear her saying, 'Sing it like your Momma taught you to' which has always kind of helped me. I ended up making my mom very proud, I am glad to say.”

Martha joined her first band The Fascinations while still at high school followed by The Del-Phis. Then, while singing in a Detroit club one night, she was spotted by Motown A & R director Mickey Stevenson who invited her to an audition. Initially she worked as his secretary but then, when a rival group failed to appear for a booked recording session, Martha quickly called in her own friends and they provided backing vocals for Marvin Gaye's hit single 'Stubborn Kind of Fellow'.

This was the break Martha had needed and, before long, she and her friends were offered a contract. They called themselves Martha and the Vandellas, a name that combined the street where Martha lived as a child, Van Dyke Street, with the first name of singer Della Reese who Martha admired. A succession of major hits followed – including 'Heat Wave', 'Jimmy Mack', 'Live Wire' and 'Dancing in the Street'. Eventually the Motown label and its major artists moved to Los Angeles but Martha soon returned to Detroit.

“I just didn't like Southern California,” Martha recalled. “I missed the snowy winters, believe it or not and Detroit was home to me, even if the city was having big problems and experiencing major post-industrial decline and desolation. My family were still there, after all. So I decided to try to do something to help the situation. I joined the city council and for years have campaigned for improvements to the city's infrastructure to help combat crime and decline. Slowly things did improve. It took many years and huge hard work and politicking to start to get the city refurbished. Much remains to be done but more people are now involved, roads are being repaired again and there is new building work. All of that effort and working with people of all kinds away from the music industry was a great experience for me. But I am now at a stage where I'm back to focusing on my music again - and very happy about that too."

“I still live in Detroit though, and I have a huge loyalty to the city. I am also still involved not just in Detroit issues but in looking at regeneration of urban areas in other parts of the world too. But, once again, music is my main activity. I am one of the last of the Motown survivors - but I try not to be sad about change. We all have to try to live the best life we can. I miss good friends like Ben E King who died recently – he was a great performer but also a good man who did so much work with young kids from poor backgrounds, getting them into colleges and turning round their lives. He also taught me golf which I enjoy."

“I still love travelling, too. I have always enjoyed visiting England. It is probably the place I am most at home outside of America and always have been. But, you know, one of my remaining ambitions is to see the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace. Somehow I have always missed out on that. My other dream is to perform for the Queen who I have admired since I was a child. So, you see, even at 73 I have many dreams still to fulfil!”
















Related Links:

http://www.missmarthareeves.com/index.html
https://twitter.com/marthareevesvan
https://www.facebook.com/pages/MARTHA-REEVES-Official-Page/130642860300852


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