The Marvelettes “Little Girls Grow Up” (1965, Unreleased. From Cellarful of Motown Volume 3, 2007)
It shouldn’t be surprising, as we pull into the heart of Gemini Roll Call there’s a bit of twin factor in the stories I’m telling. Another influential Gladys Gemini has been with me for a long long time. She’s Gladys Horton of The Marvelettes, who would have celebrated her 70th Birthday today.
I’ve learned quite a bit of emotional truth from growing up with The Marvelettes discography. Granted, the group had charted singles with 3 different lead singers, but the take no prisoners, own no other’s bullshit approach of Gladys Horton’s performance style definitely taught me on an emotion level to trust my own intuition and wit. Learning quite early on that the bulk of material she recorded as a Marvelette was pretty much done between the age of 15 and 22 makes her one of the prime musicians that I listened to in my own transition from adolescence to adulthood, becoming a bit wiser with every step.
Of all girl groups, and of all lead singers, Gladys Horton was one of the few given an extended spotlight to mature on vinyl. She went from the precocious, determined teenager on “Please Mr. Postman,” to the young woman not afraid to ask a guy on a date in “Beechwood 4-5-7-8-9” a year later. She told men she wasn’t one to be strung along, and advised everyone to play the ocean of love in “Too Many Fish In The Sea.” Although her time as the primary focus of The Marvelettes started to come to a close as Motown entered its golden years, she still stepped behind the mic for some dazzling performances.
This unreleased bit of glamorous bombast from the Spring of ’65 pretty much denotes the transition, and stereotypical expectations of her record performing persona. She had went from the Tomboy ready to rumble (literally, The Marvelettes where known for their highly energetic and polished stage act that was on par with their male peers) with the boys to eventually donning the evening gowns and expectations for marriage that were what respectable young women did. Horton did depart The Marvelettes for marriage and parenthood in the middle of 1967, but there’s a telling irony that for the majority of her life after she left the group that she ended up not deviating from her persona she established on records. Going on to be a sole breadwinner single mother of 3, she kept fighting for what was righteously hers (namely the name rights to The Marvelettes brand) until she passed away 4 years ago.
There’s a bit of unsung legacy to her and The Marvelettes (they still haven’t been deemed important enough to be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame) that I always go a little bit extra out of the way to champion for Gladys Horton and her artistic legacy. Thanks lady for all of the wisdom you taught me from early on, and that wisdom that I still cherish.