I originally wrote this post 5 years ago when Gladys Horton passed away at the age of 65 in 2011. Horton’s voice on Marvelettes singles had been a profound link into me digging deeper into my experience as an outsider observing the inside, taking no shit from no one, and living a life from steadfast loyalty to your beliefs, your being and those things you love. As time passes, my relationship with her only becomes deeper.
Of all of the musicians the moved onto the great Fillmore in the sky, no other singer leaves such an empty void as Gladys Horton.
The original Homegurl of the Girl Group explosion that blossomed between 1959 and 1964, her emotional frankness was even a novel thing in the canon of Girl Group records up to that point. Compared to her pleading and unsure comrades on their hit records, wondering “Maybe” or “Will You Still Love” (Me) them tomorrow, she directly assaulted the USPS in a plea we could all recognize. Please Mr. Postman rose to the top of the Pop and R&B charts 50 years ago this month based on the realistic demand for information.
Her voice would become the signature “reality check” of the girl group era, whether it was warning a player to back down (Playboy) or making the first move on the dancefloor and in the telephone game (Beechwood 4-5-7-8-9). Her sprited and mature stance on these recordings belied her youth (she was only 15 when she recorded “Please Mr. Postman” in April, 1961).
Though she was de-emphasized for Wanda Young in her own group, leading her last hit in the dating war (gospel) anthem of choice “Too Many Fish In The Sea,”she continued to morph into a sophisticated adult on vinyl, one of the rarest of transistions allowed to female singers of that era. Although she didn’t provide The Marvelettes with well known classics beyond that point, she recorded what is possibly the greatest anthem to growing up, the sadly vaulted “Little Girls Grow Up.” This can also be contrasted with the delightfully suggestive make out anthem “This Night Was Made For Love,” released shortly before she left the group to become the “little girl grown up” with a marriage and son.
I find particular shame in the fact that she in her lifetime never got recognition as one of the most influential and distinctive voices of the Girl Group era, but to this day she and her group haven’t received that acknowledgement. This just a random piece of internet acknowledgement that can only do mere amounts of justice to a voice that brought delight, comfort and comradery to millions of listeners during the 1960s and beyond.