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Thursday, January 27, 2011

gladys horton

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Gladys Horton of the Marvelettes Dead at 66

 Gladys Horton, the powerful soul singer who co-founded the all-female Motown ensemble the Marvelettes, died late Wednesday in a nursing home outside of Los Angeles. The 66-year-old's cause of death is unknown, though she was recovering from complications due to a stroke she suffered last year, her son told the Associated Press.

Horton was born in 1944 in a suburb of Detroit and raised by foster parents. She joined a glee club in high school and almost immediately recruited four club members, including Georgia Dobbins, to create the modestly named the Casinyets (as in, can't sing yet).

The group's big break came in 1961 with an audition for
Berry Gordy and Smokey Robinson of the then-startup label Motown. They weren't originally given the opportunity -- they had placed fourth in their high school's talent show, with the top three receiving auditions -- but were granted an exception.

The quartet wowed the label with a second audition, performing what would become their first hit single, 'Please Mr. Postman,' co-written with Dobbins' friend and songwriter William Garrett. They settled on a new band name, the Marvelettes, and recorded the song with the famous Funk Brothers backing them. The song and its eponymous album skyrocketed to the top of the charts.

While the group released several records over the next six years, with successful singles such as 'Playboy' and 'Don't Mess With Bill,' they failed to reach the top of the charts again. During that time, one member, Juanita Cowart, had a nervous breakdown and quit. Another, Georgeanna Tillman, was diagnosed with lupus and left. At the same time, Motown began to shift its focus to newer artists better positioned to compete with suddenly popular English rock bands like the

Horton left the group in 1967 to get married, and never returned fully to music. She devoted herself to taking care of her handicapped son, and largely stayed out of the public eye, even during the controversy that surfaced when the Marvelettes chose to continue performing with no original members. She performed only occasionally in the ensuing decades with no apparent interest in launching a solo career, billing herself simply as "Gladys Horton from the Marvelettes."

"My mother died peacefully," Horton's son, Vaughn Thornton, said Thursday morning in a statement released by the Motown Alumni Association. "She fought as long as she could." She is survived by Vaughn and another son. Funeral arrangements are pending.

The Marvelettes Perform 'Please Mr. Postman'


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