View Full Version : Syreeta Wright: Reflections!


08-21-2010, 07:44 PM

Early life and career

Syreeta was born Syreeta Wright in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1946. She started singing at four. Her father died while serving at the Korean War and Wright and her two sisters, Yvonne [[later a songwriter in her own right) and Kim, were raised by their mother Essie and grandmother. The Wrights moved back and forth from Detroit to South Carolina before finally settling in Detroit just as Wright entered high school. Monetary problems kept Wright from pursuing a career in ballet so Wright focused her attention on a music career joining several singing groups before landing a job as a receptionist for Motown in 1965. Within a year, she moved to become a secretary for Mickey Stevenson, just as Martha Reeves had done before her.

A year later, Edward Holland of the famous Holland-Dozier-Holland songwriting team noticed Wright's singing vocals and decided to try her out for demos of Supremes songs. Motown CEO Berry Gordy shortened her birth name to "Rita" and Wright released her first solo single, "I Can't Give Back the Love I Feel for You", in early 1968. The song was initially written for The Supremes [[then going by the revised moniker, "Diana Ross & The Supremes"). They later recorded the song in 1969 and Diana Ross re-recorded the song for her solo album, Surrender. Wright's version became a hit for Northern soul audiences in the United Kingdom, a country where Wright would enjoy success at.

Wright also applied demo vocals for the Supremes hit, "Love Child" and Ross' "Something's On My Mind", which Ross later recorded for her self-titled debut album. When Diana Ross left The Supremes in early 1970, Motown boss Berry Gordy considered replacing her with Syreeta, but offered the place in the group to Jean Terrell. According to several sources, Gordy then changed his mind and tried to replace Terrell with Syreeta, but this was vetoed by Supreme Mary Wilson.[1]

Wright also sung background on records by the Supremes and by Martha and the Vandellas, notably singing the chorus to the group's modest hit single, "I Can't Dance to That Music You're Playing". Wright met fellow label-mate Stevie Wonder in 1968 and the two began dating the following year. On the advice of Wonder, Wright became a songwriter. Their first collaboration, "It's a Shame", was recorded by The Spinners, in 1969. Motown withheld its release within a year before its release in July 1970. The song reached number 14 on the Billboard Hot 100. Wright also began singing background for Wonder, most notably for Wonder's hit, "Signed, Sealed, Delivered [[I'm Yours)", which Wright co-wrote with Wonder. In September of 1970, after a year-long courtship, Wright, twenty-four, and Wonder, twenty, married in Detroit. The couple then wrote and arranged songs from Wonder's Where I'm Coming From, which was released much to Berry Gordy's chagrin in the spring of 1971. The Wonder-Wright composition, "If You Really Love Me" [[which also featured Wright promptly singing background vocals), reached number-eight in the US that year. In 1971, following Wonder's exit from Motown, the couple relocated to New York where Wonder worked on two independent albums.