1964 Marvin Gaye and Mary Wells – Once Upon A Time
Mary Wells grew up in poverty in Detroit. She had written the song Bye Bye Baby and offered it to Berry Gordy, hoping he would have Jackie Wilson to record it. Berry had her sing some of the song, and that impressed him enough to sign Mary to one of the Motown labels. She recorded the single, which reached #8 on the R&B chart and #45 on the Hot 100 in 1960.
Mary recorded a series of hit records over the next five years and earned Motown’s first Grammy nomination in 1962. The Beatles claimed Mary was their favorite female singer and invited her to open for them in England.
Smokey Robinson wrote the first single she released in 1964. My Guy reached #1 on both the Hot 100 and the R&B chart.
Marvin Gaye began recording for Motown in 1961 and had three top ten R&B hits in 1962 and 1963, one of which (Pride and Joy) also reached the top ten on the Hot 100. His first single in 1964 was You’re a Wonderful One, which peaked at #15 on the Hot 100 and #3 on the R&B chart.
Mary was clearly a bigger star at that time, and Motown paired her with Marvin in an effort to promote both of the two singers. In 1964, Marvin and Mary recorded an album of duets, Together. The single from the album turned into a two-sided hit.
The b-side of the record actually reached the charts first, beginning its climb on May 2, 1964. Once Upon A Time peaked at #19 on the Hot 100 and #3 on the R&B chart.
The a-side of the single got onto the charts on May 16. What’s The Matter With You Baby reached #15 on the Hot 100 and #2 on the R&B chart.
Mary had been increasingly unhappy with the small amount of money she had been receiving from her hit records. She sued Motown over her past royalties. Before the lawsuit worked its way through the courts, Mary had her contract with Motown declared invalid since she signed it when she was only 17.
Freed from Motown, Mary received a bonus of $200,000 for signing with 20th Century Fox Records and began recording for them. Mary’s best single for the label only reached #34, and she never reached the Hot 100 again after that single.
Marvin teamed up with Kim Weston for a single that only reached #61 on the Hot 100, but had three more top ten singles on the Hot 100 by the end of 1965. He also had had a string of hit records with Tammi Terrell beginning in 1967.
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