Wanda Young, member of The Marvelettes, dies at 78

Young and her fellow Marvelettes helped lay the foundation for Motown Records' chart-topping success in the 1960s

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The Marvelettes singer Wanda Young, whose girl group helped lay the foundation for Motown Records’ monumental success during the 1960s, died earlier this month in Garden City, Michigan, according to the multiple sources. She was 78.

Young’s daughter, Meta Ventress, recently told The New York Times that her mother, who was one of The Marvelettes’ lead singers, passed away on Dec. 15 due to complications from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

(From l to r) Katherine Anderson, Wanda Young and Gladys Horton of the Marvelettes are seen in this undated photo. (Credit: The Marvelettes tribute page on Facebook)

The “Don’t Mess With Bill” vocalist, who also lended her voice to Motown hits such as “I’ll Keep Holding On” and “The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game,” recorded more than 20 singles with The Marvelettes that made the charts, according to the NYT.

The group’s members, including Katherine Anderson and fellow lead singer Gladys Horton, were just teenagers when they recorded their 1961 chart-topper “Please Mr. Postman,” which became Motown’s first No. 1 hit, per the NYT.

“Wanda had this little voice that was sexy to me, a little country kind of voice,” fellow Motown hitmaker Smokey Robinson, who wrote several of The Marvelettes’ hit songs, said in music writer Fred Bronson’s liner notes for the 1993 Marvelettes compilation, Deliver: The Singles (1961-1971), the NYT reported.

“I knew if I could get a song to her, it would be a smash,” Robinson added.

Credit: Ifasul on YouTube

Young’s father, James Young, who worked for the Ford Motor Company, and mother, Beatrice Young, who was a homemaker, raised their daughter in Inkster, Michigan roughly 20 miles west of Detroit, according to the Times.

She originally aspired to become a pediatric nurse, but later joined the Marvelettes after one of its founding members dropped out.

Horton and her fellow high schoolers — Anderson, Georgeanna Tillman, Juanita Cowart, and recent graduate Georgia Dobbins — formed the quintet that eventually became The Marvelettes in 1960, according to the NYT.

The group, which was called the Casinyets (Can’t Sing Yet) at the time, competed in a talent show whose three finalists were set to audition for Motown. The Casinyets lost the competition, but a teacher helped them land an audition anyway.

The Marvelettes
American vocal group The Marvelettes perform at the Apollo Theater in New York City, circa 1965. (Photo by Don Paulsen/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Motown advised the group to come up with an original song, which led to Dobbins and her friend, William Garrett, composing and writing what ultimately became “Please Mr. Postman.”

Horton asked Young to join the group after Dobbins left due to her parents forbidding her from pursuing a career in the music industry, the Times reported.

Young later changed her name to Wanda Rogers after marrying singer Bobby Rogers of the Miracles in 1963, according to multiple sources. The couple divorced in 1975.

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