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  1. #1

    Syreeta..what happened?

    Syreeta seemed to be one of Berryís favorites. Iím assuming her albums got promoted. She had been married to stevie and they remained friends. So why didnít she become a bigger star? She sure seems to have the talent. Her albums just didnít click with the public?

  2. #2
    IDK... seems to me she didn't get promoted enough. All I remembered is she performed on Soul Train (and probably American Bandstand) during the SWPS period.

    Spinning and Spinning and Your Kiss is Sweet were both promoted heavily in the UK but I don't recall Syreeta going there to perform until afterwards? Maybe there was a Top of the Pops performance, I don't know. Maybe the Stevie Wonder drama was too much (she was divorcing him but was still in good terms with him but Stevie's albums were released and probably pushed hers inadvertently to the background).

    I don't think the first album was promoted at all. One to One was too mature, I guess.

    I'd like to see what they say about her career on Unsung.

  3. #3
    I liked her voice....a lot. Just didn't care for the material given her. Maybe others felt that way, too?

  4. #4
    I personally don't like high pitched voices for extended listening...(Minnie, Susaye, Deniece) a cut or 2 here and there, OK. I love Jean Terrell very much, but there are some tracks where even she is too shrill for me....ditto for belters (Barbra, Patti, Ethel & most B'way stars)

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by luke View Post
    Syreeta seemed to be one of Berry’s favorites. I’m assuming her albums got promoted. She had been married to stevie and they remained friends. So why didn’t she become a bigger star? She sure seems to have the talent. Her albums just didn’t click with the public?
    It was always a mystery to me how Syreeta Wright was able to remain signed to Motown for approx. 11 years before she got a bona fide hit with Billy Preston. She was a favorite. So was Myra Waters.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by gman View Post
    I personally don't like high pitched voices for extended listening...(Minnie, Susaye, Deniece) a cut or 2 here and there, OK. I love Jean Terrell very much, but there are some tracks where even she is too shrill for me
    Pretty much how I feel, minus Deniece, who I can listen to all day, and Jean Terrell, who always does it for me. Those really high voices like Syreeta's tend to grate on my nerves. However, the Stevie Wonder Presents album is one of my favorites, probably because of Stevie's influence.

    Motown has so many mysteries in regards to people not becoming bigger. But imagine they were no different than any other label in that regard. I'm sure the Atlantics, Columbias, ABC's, Epics and so forth have a number of artists on the label that boggles the mind as to why they weren't successful.

  7. #7
    I think the unusual thing is that Syreeta was at Motown so long - ala the Supremes - yet she had such limited success, unlike the Supremes.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by gman View Post
    I personally don't like high pitched voices for extended listening...(Minnie, Susaye, Deniece) a cut or 2 here and there, OK. I love Jean Terrell very much, but there are some tracks where even she is too shrill for me....ditto for belters (Barbra, Patti, Ethel & most B'way stars)
    The high pitched voice is harder to attract success. Remember the Supremes weren't successful til they took Diana's voice down a few notches.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by luke View Post
    I think the unusual thing is that Syreeta was at Motown so long - ala the Supremes - yet she had such limited success, unlike the Supremes.
    Most of those years of her tenure were during the 70s and as we know Motown was struggling for hits for everybody except the J5, Diana, Stevie, Marvin, the Tempts, the Supremes and an odd artist here and there. At a certain point even the J5, the Tempts, and of course the Supremes, started having hit struggles, and Diana was an inconsistent hit maker. All of that makes me think that Syreeta's limited success was the result of a disconnection between her and the public. As much as I love her second album (It really is on my personal "critical acclaim" list) nothing on it stands out as a song that radio would have spun constantly. Listening to her output, there's very little that makes me think she was a hit maker waiting to happen if only the songs had been promoted. So I'm guessing Motown sticking with her for so long despite these issues may very well have been that Gordy- or other higher ups at the label- thought highly of her in some way or another. Didn't she write songs too? They may have kept her around for that also. And of course Stevie may have had something to do with it.

  10. #10
    I agree that Syreeta should have achieved much more at Motown - some of her album tracks are amazingly good. However, the UK didn't overlook her quite so much as the USA. We can point to 6 Top 50 hits which isn't too bad.

    "Spinnin' and Spinnin'" 49
    "Your Kiss Is Sweet" 12
    "Harmour Love" 32
    "Let's Make A Deal" 12 w G.C. Cameron
    "With You I'm Born Again" 2 w Billy Preston
    "It Will Come In Time" 47 w Billy Preston

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by RanRan79 View Post
    Most of those years of her tenure were during the 70s and as we know Motown was struggling for hits for everybody except the J5, Diana, Stevie, Marvin, the Tempts, the Supremes and an odd artist here and there. At a certain point even the J5, the Tempts, and of course the Supremes, started having hit struggles, and Diana was an inconsistent hit maker. All of that makes me think that Syreeta's limited success was the result of a disconnection between her and the public. As much as I love her second album (It really is on my personal "critical acclaim" list) nothing on it stands out as a song that radio would have spun constantly. Listening to her output, there's very little that makes me think she was a hit maker waiting to happen if only the songs had been promoted. So I'm guessing Motown sticking with her for so long despite these issues may very well have been that Gordy- or other higher ups at the label- thought highly of her in some way or another. Didn't she write songs too? They may have kept her around for that also. And of course Stevie may have had something to do with it.
    Syreeta was the co-writer of Signed, Sealed, Delivered, It's a Shame and several songs on Stevie's albums.

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by luke View Post
    I think the unusual thing is that Syreeta was at Motown so long - ala the Supremes - yet she had such limited success, unlike the Supremes.
    She was at Motown a whole lot longer than the Supremes without having a hit. Then she remained there after the Supremes disbanded still with one hit under her belt.

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by mysterysinger View Post
    I agree that Syreeta should have achieved much more at Motown - some of her album tracks are amazingly good. However, the UK didn't overlook her quite so much as the USA. We can point to 6 Top 50 hits which isn't too bad.

    "Spinnin' and Spinnin'" 49
    "Your Kiss Is Sweet" 12
    "Harmour Love" 32
    "Let's Make A Deal" 12 w G.C. Cameron
    "With You I'm Born Again" 2 w Billy Preston
    "It Will Come In Time" 47 w Billy Preston
    She had no solo hits in America to my knowledge. I do not believe she had any hits on any charts regardless of genre. "With You I'm Born Again" with Billy Preston in 1979-80 was it. Keep in mind, she signed with Motown in 1968!

  14. #14
    I think it was a situation with Syreeta similar to Jean Terrell and Martha Reeves. All were head strong when it came to their music and although they respected Berry Gordy they resented his controlling presence. Any female singer at Motown was going to be second or third fiddle to the queen Diana Ross. In fact, Gordy signed Syreeta to the label with her in mind to replace Ross. Inevitably Gordy would constantly make comparisons and references to "Diane" to these women which they detested. Cindy Birdsong said in an interview long ago that she and Mary didn't like Syreeta but didn't go into detail why.

    Syreeta was a gifted singer, likely the best female singer on the Motown roster. But she didn't buy into the glamour image, was down to earth and proud of her blackness. This may also have played a part into her limited success. Her lps and singles were NOT promoted except for the 1980 lp and Set My Love In Motion. The hit with Billy Preston was pretty much an accident. With You, I'm Born Again was first issued on the soundtrack lp Fast Break. The movie and the album tanked. But in the UK, With You was embraced and became a huge hit. It was released in the USA nearly a year after first being issued and radio stations gradually picked up on it and the shear beauty of the song just couldn't be denied. Syreeta stayed with Gordy if for no other reason than she worked when she wanted to which gave her time to raise her children the way she desired. She always had Stevie in her back pocket at Motown, she wouldn't anywhere else.

  15. #15
    I love If you Really love me with her and stevie. Did she co-write that?

  16. #16
    A lot of contrasting views here, and it just goes to show how some love a voice and some not so smitten. Before seeing this thread, I had Syreeta's "The Rita Wright Years" CD on permanent play in the car, just trying to understand why it wasn't grabbing me when others have found it spellbinding. Syreeta did record a few tracks which appealed to me, but almost always I came to the conclusion that I found her voice thin, shrill at the upper register, and not engaging. I was content to think it was just me, but I do see that others feel the same. I like her enormously, but as a recording artist, simply never worked for me. I find GC Cameron's voice captivating, but her duets with GC were flattened in my opinion. To be honest, I also found the dead hand of Michael Lovesmith all over the duets , hence the lack of ingenuity and inspiration
    Last edited by MIKEW-UK; 04-05-2018 at 03:53 PM.

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by luke View Post
    I love If you Really love me with her and stevie. Did she co-write that?
    Yep. In fact, she co-wrote ALL the tracks on Where I'm Coming From.

  18. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by BayouMotownMan View Post
    I think it was a situation with Syreeta similar to Jean Terrell and Martha Reeves. All were head strong when it came to their music and although they respected Berry Gordy they resented his controlling presence. Any female singer at Motown was going to be second or third fiddle to the queen Diana Ross. In fact, Gordy signed Syreeta to the label with her in mind to replace Ross. Inevitably Gordy would constantly make comparisons and references to "Diane" to these women which they detested. Cindy Birdsong said in an interview long ago that she and Mary didn't like Syreeta but didn't go into detail why.

    Syreeta was a gifted singer, likely the best female singer on the Motown roster. But she didn't buy into the glamour image, was down to earth and proud of her blackness. This may also have played a part into her limited success. Her lps and singles were NOT promoted except for the 1980 lp and Set My Love In Motion. The hit with Billy Preston was pretty much an accident. With You, I'm Born Again was first issued on the soundtrack lp Fast Break. The movie and the album tanked. But in the UK, With You was embraced and became a huge hit. It was released in the USA nearly a year after first being issued and radio stations gradually picked up on it and the shear beauty of the song just couldn't be denied. Syreeta stayed with Gordy if for no other reason than she worked when she wanted to which gave her time to raise her children the way she desired. She always had Stevie in her back pocket at Motown, she wouldn't anywhere else.
    That's what I think too. Berry may have liked her but Syreeta wasn't gonna be told what to do. That's why Stevie fell for her really. She helped to free him from the controls of Motown. Most of Stevie's early attempts at musical freedom can be partially credited to Syreeta's guiding hand. That's why he still calls her the love of his life.

  19. #19
    I liked Love Fire. Not too much else though I have to admit.

  20. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by RanRan79 View Post

    Motown has so many mysteries in regards to people not becoming bigger. But imagine they were no different than any other label in that regard. I'm sure the Atlantics, Columbias, ABC's, Epics and so forth have a number of artists on the label that boggles the mind as to why they weren't successful.
    I think that's about right. Plenty of acts vanished without ever making it big. Not to mention the many that had a very short run at success. It's all in the the way the stars line up and there's only so much room at the top.
    I guess being a one hit wonder is better than nothing.

  21. #21
    Quote Originally Posted by Boogiedown View Post
    I think that's about right. Plenty of acts vanished without ever making it big. Not to mention the many that had a very short run at success. It's all in the the way the stars line up and there's only so much room at the top.
    I guess being a one hit wonder is better than nothing.
    Perfect posts

    The road to success of the few is littered with the what ifís and the why didnít she make its

  22. #22
    Quote Originally Posted by midnightman View Post
    IDK... seems to me she didn't get promoted enough. All I remembered is she performed on Soul Train (and probably American Bandstand) during the SWPS period.

    Spinning and Spinning and Your Kiss is Sweet were both promoted heavily in the UK but I don't recall Syreeta going there to perform until afterwards? Maybe there was a Top of the Pops performance, I don't know. Maybe the Stevie Wonder drama was too much (she was divorcing him but was still in good terms with him but Stevie's albums were released and probably pushed hers inadvertently to the background).

    I don't think the first album was promoted at all. One to One was too mature, I guess.

    I'd like to see what they say about her career on Unsung.
    She did perform your kiss is sweet on totp, but i have not seen the performance since the original broadcast. I liked Syreeta but I didn't love her. There is a difference. I am not sure why I wasn't a bigger fan than I am, but her voice never touched me in the way many others did.

  23. #23
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    She did not make a song pop with excitement the way Queen Ross did.

  24. #24
    Not even 1% of the acts recorded get any kind of career from recording. Motown was unusual as it was a small family type operation with big dreams, but they exceeded those dreams beyond imagination. If they ”just” had The Sumpremes or The Tempts, or The J5, or or just Stevie they’d have been thrilled, but all that plus The Tops, Smokey, Queen Mary, Martha, Marvelettes, Gladys, Marvin - c’mon, that’s beyond a miracle. And I’m constantly reading how Motown dropped the ball on The Velvelettes, Syreeta, Chris ClRk....whoever......Motown maximized their forces and limited capital better than any record company ever in history - while fighting a hostile white dominated business. People unhappy with Motown were always free to go elsewhere. Some had success like Gladys and The J5.... most didn’t - some got a year or two like The Tops or Spinners.

    every company has a president and every president wants things his way. Clive Davis is no different than Berry Gordy. If Jean didn’t want to listen, she was free to return to oblivion - which she did. Everyone else had the same options if they felt they weren’t being treated as they wanted, but often the prevailing thought in these threads is that artists are somehow OWED something by a label. There was lots of interest in Martha but no one could get her into a viable recording act after 1967.

    As for Syreeta, Cindy didn’t know her well, but Mary felt “she was too much of a diva - and we had just gotten rid of one.” Of course, what Mary didn’t realize was that SHE wanted to be the Supremes’ diva.......if you ask her today, over cocktails, she will tell you Syreeta may ultimately have been a better choice. It wasn’t a good idea for Jean to be hard to work with Berry - at least until she had proven herself. I believe Syreeta would have been more mailable.

  25. #25
    Berry was used to he and Motown firmly managing the top groups. the skills and talent to be a great manager is very different from those needed for being a top entertainer. from 64 - 66/67, there definitely was some degree of group management with the top acts. but really it was all about Diana and the Sups. whichever groups could be easily and willingly transformed into that mold, they moved forward. but really it was only the Sups, the Temps and the Tops. Martha got some but her conflicts (both within her head, within the group and with Motown) led her to being cast aside pretty quickly once the big hits dried up. The Temps went along with it but even they said they were second fiddle to the Sups. had they not brilliantly pushed/collaborated w Norman into the psychedelic soul era, they probably would have seen a slide similar to the Tops.

    The miracles had smokey - berry seemed to just let them do their own thing.

    And with the Sups, just like Berry was over Flo once she wasn't willing to cooperate with his strategy, with Jean he got the same thing. She was independent and had specific ideas of how she wanted to be presented. At first she went along with everything cuz it was new and exciting. there was a ton of hype. But Gordy was always going to be more involved with Diana and when he saw the conflicts with jean, he figured f it.

  26. #26
    Quote Originally Posted by sup_fan View Post
    Berry was used to he and Motown firmly managing the top groups. the skills and talent to be a great manager is very different from those needed for being a top entertainer. from 64 - 66/67, there definitely was some degree of group management with the top acts. but really it was all about Diana and the Sups. whichever groups could be easily and willingly transformed into that mold, they moved forward. but really it was only the Sups, the Temps and the Tops. Martha got some but her conflicts (both within her head, within the group and with Motown) led her to being cast aside pretty quickly once the big hits dried up. The Temps went along with it but even they said they were second fiddle to the Sups. had they not brilliantly pushed/collaborated w Norman into the psychedelic soul era, they probably would have seen a slide similar to the Tops.

    The miracles had smokey - berry seemed to just let them do their own thing.

    And with the Sups, just like Berry was over Flo once she wasn't willing to cooperate with his strategy, with Jean he got the same thing. She was independent and had specific ideas of how she wanted to be presented. At first she went along with everything cuz it was new and exciting. there was a ton of hype. But Gordy was always going to be more involved with Diana and when he saw the conflicts with jean, he figured f it.
    Some of what you say is accurate, but there is a lot more to all of this. The Spinners were most cooperative with any and everything Motown asked of them. They even chauffeured around other popular acts waiting for their turn with the companies better songwriters. Their turn never really came at Motown. There also was some of the "Me Too" stuff going around at Motown just like at other companies, but I don't want to get into that I just want that fact to be included. Motown was hugely popular around the World, but yet it was still a small company in terms of staff. I always envision Motown being as big as Sony became had they had the required personnel and resources to handle all of those talented artists that were coming through their doors during their peak! Just among their highest profiled acts like the Supremes and Temptations, they could have spun off 7- 8 successful solo acts and continued to fill in behind them with developing newer groups like the Jackson Five, etc. Many of the artists that were at Motown in the 60s continued on for years and years putting on great concerts and putting out great music after they were no longer with Motown.

    By the early 80s, Motown began to suffer from it's earlier inability to develop, promote and retain many of those talented artists. They had fell below a certain level where they could not introduce new quality acts fast enough to make up for those who had left.

  27. #27
    Quote Originally Posted by TheMotownManiac View Post

    every company has a president and every president wants things his way. Clive Davis is no different than Berry Gordy. If Jean didn’t want to listen, she was free to return to oblivion - which she did. Everyone else had the same options if they felt they weren’t being treated as they wanted, but often the prevailing thought in these threads is that artists are somehow OWED something by a label.
    I don't understand this way of thinking at all. If I take on a job there are certain expectations that I have, such as I expect to be provided with breaks, I expect to be able to do my job unhindered, I expect to be provided with reasonable safety, and I damn sho expect to get paid. Likewise I understand that my employer may expect certain things of me, such as that I be on time, that I stay within the lengths of my allowed breaks, that I perform my job to the satisfaction of the boss, thus contributing to the success of the business.

    If I sign a record deal with Motown or any other label, I'm owed the company's attention to me as an artist. I'm owed the company promoting the recordings released. I'm also owed respect and dignity as a human being. Probably that above all else. And what we know about Motown is that they were forever signing artists to contracts, recording most of those acts at least a dozen times, requiring that those acts be present for any and everything the powers that be desire, charging the artists for every little thing, and expecting said artists to hold to the contract that was signed, all the while often failing to do little to no promotion for most of the acts who were recorded and released. And we know Gordy was no stranger to being verbally and physically (at least in the case of Marvin Gaye) abusive to his employees. But the truth is that while those who wished to go somewhere else were free to do so, they weren't free to do it until their contracts expired. And Motown knew that.

    Now of course common sense says that no record label is ever going to be able to turn all artists into stars. But to suggest that a record label doesn't owe it's artists anything is beyond my way of thinking. If I sign with a label I should have a reasonable expectation that the label is going to provide me with what I need to make a successful go at this thing. Now if what I do doesn't vibe with the public, oh well. That's the breaks. Becoming a star is often left up to chance. We all know artists who didn't get much company support and yet still manage to carve out a successful career, just like we all know artists who got tons of company support and didn't do shit with it.

    A record label is like any other job in the world. Employees are owed reasonable requests just like any other employee in any other sector.

  28. #28
    That's why Stevie's lawyers and attorneys were so aggressive against Motown's contracts stifling him. They took action.

    Imagine if Marvin had done the same thing instead of being told that he was "part of the family".

    Syreeta was an indie artist basically at Motown so she may have stayed around due to a very shady contract but was never ever promoted because Motown didn't wanna put money behind her.

    I know Stevie was ticked off Motown wasn't putting their all behind her too. I just know it.

  29. #29
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l9Mdo06Y2XQ
    I think Syreeta had the voice and stage presence to be a Supreme.

  30. #30
    I really enjoyed this thought provoking thread. Rather than reply individudally to half a dozen comments I thought I would merge them into one reply.

    Luke - sadly not everyone makes it, and disaapointingly your sucess or failure doesn't relate directly to your talent or lack of it. Not everyone can be number one by definition I guess. Consider all the deep soul artists who made a few records and then, for one reason or another vanished from sight and you think 'how come they were never top stars?' (Jean Battle, Charlene Southern, Vivilore Jordan and Tommie Young are just four who come to mind)

    RanRan 79 - Motown has so many mysteries in regards to people not becoming bigger' True - how on earth they never promoted Carolyn Crawford defeats me. But all labels had their occasional misses, Atlantic dropped the ball with Patti LaBelle and Bettye Swann for example.

    TheMotownManiac - 'It wasn’t a good idea for Jean to be hard to work with Berry.' Probably true...but...artists often have difficult temprements and it is the job of the manager to manage this. Look how Jerry Wexler at Atlantic cajoled, nudged, persuaded Aretha in order to get the best out of her.

    Sup-fan ' with Jean he got the same thing. She was independent and had specific ideas of how she wanted to be presented.' True, maybe this wasn't a bad thing. Berry Gordy's main fialing was his control freakery. The Supremes simply had to evolve and I don't think he ever understood that. With Jean Terrell he had a top class vocalist who brought more soul - and more than a touch of spirituality - to the group, The fact that Berry hated Stoned Love is really telling in my opinion. Pragmatically of course, you're right. Berry was the boss and what he said went. But he wasn't always right and mishandling Jean was a collossal error IMO.

    Marv2
    - agree entirely about the Detroit Spinners. At Motown they were very much a secnd rate act and really blossomed at Atlantic when they paired them up with Thom Bell, and it is that time for which they are remembered. Had they not moved they would have achieved very little.
    Last edited by waynesville; 04-07-2018 at 11:12 AM.

  31. #31
    If Berry Gordy could handle Diana Ross who slapped him across the face youíd think he could handle Jean!

  32. #32
    honest man Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by luke View Post
    If Berry Gordy could handle Diana Ross who slapped him across the face youíd think he could handle Jean!
    here we go again same shit ,different day,If you don not know already Berry Gordy and Diana Ross,were romantically i and what she means to him,and ,listen to his interview Desert Island Discs,where he talks about the love of his life,and im pissed of with myself for replying to your shit,cheers,

  33. #33
    I think with Jean it may have been a case of not liking the road work after the first 18 months....she came into the group knowing she was taking over a very demanding and high profile position. She was probably willing to do that for a period of time, since the new group needed to establish itself, but perhaps wanted to spend more time at home after having a few successful records. Throughout the groups existence beginning in 1964, they were a road act....constantly touring, doing TV, and only taking breaks to record.
    I don't see Syreeta fitting into any group style wise...like Susaye, the voice just seems to work better as a soloist.

  34. #34
    Jerry Wexler may have done x,y,z to get the best out of Dusty Springfield but when sales proved poor... If Aretha hadn't hit commercially, Jerry Wexler's interest in her would have tapered off.

    Who can we blame at A&M for not handling Jean Terrell properly?

  35. #35
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    Rita Wright (Syreeta) was an excellent singer. But, I feel that her anthology CD and "The Rita Wright Years" are filled with mediocre songs. I bought her Gordy 45, "I Can't Give Back The Love I Feel For You", which was one of my favourite songs of all time. To me, that was the only good song they ever gave her. She suffered from lack of material at Motown.

  36. #36
    Quote Originally Posted by smallworld View Post
    Jerry Wexler may have done x,y,z to get the best out of Dusty Springfield but when sales proved poor... If Aretha hadn't hit commercially, Jerry Wexler's interest in her would have tapered off.

    Who can we blame at A&M for not handling Jean Terrell properly?
    Maybe at the end of the day, some great vocalists were not meant to be great artists. Aretha definitely had the it factor that the other women didn't have.

    That said I'm stumped to why Dusty Springfield never really TOOK OFF here. She had hits and the cultural impact but not like the superstar career here that she enjoyed for a brief while in England.

  37. #37
    Back on topic, I think Syreeta was more an artist than a simple pop singer. She wrote most of her own material and I would look at her as an albums artist. That's the way at least her first three albums went, like Syreeta, SWPS and One to One were more artistic endeavors than someone seeking a hit. It's kinda like Minnie Riperton around this same time though unlike Syreeta, she did manage to score a huge pop hit with "Lovin' You".

  38. #38
    Quote Originally Posted by midnightman View Post
    That's why Stevie's lawyers and attorneys were so aggressive against Motown's contracts stifling him. They took action.

    Imagine if Marvin had done the same thing instead of being told that he was "part of the family".

    Syreeta was an indie artist basically at Motown so she may have stayed around due to a very shady contract but was never ever promoted because Motown didn't wanna put money behind her.

    I know Stevie was ticked off Motown wasn't putting their all behind her too. I just know it.
    Yup. People sign recording contracts to become successful. People who sing (or play instruments, maybe even write songs) who do it as a hobby enter talent shows and contests, join choirs and choruses, gig around on the local circuit. Signing a contract is serious business. It says this is what you hope becomes your livelihood, and for a record label to sign someone and then say "but we aren't obligated to do anything else for you", that's some bullshit. And that's essentially the attitude Motown seems to have had. In addition to that, it was a company that wanted as much control over the artists as possible, and they often achieved that with the contracts.

    Stevie is often referred to as a genius musically, but apparently he wasn't lacking in the intelligence department either because his common sense allowed him to figure that he needed legal representation if he were going to be the kind of artist he wanted to be at Motown. One does have to wonder the magic (more magic) we would have gotten from Marvin had he done the same and not fallen for Motown's bullshit. On the other hand, we also have to wonder how much more magical and successful Motown would have been throughout the 70s if they hadn't continued to fight tooth and nail to exert total creative control over the talented people who were on their roster.

    Me thinks Gordy and company were a bit too full of themselves.

  39. #39
    Quote Originally Posted by lakeside View Post
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l9Mdo06Y2XQ
    I think Syreeta had the voice and stage presence to be a Supreme.
    I wouldn't say this is an accurate way of judging her "Supremeness", being about 20 years after her consideration for the group. I'd be curious to see video from about that time. Not that I ever bought that Gordy seriously considered replacing Jean with Syreeta. If the conversation Mary claims took place between her and Gordy the morning after the farewell show is true, I personally think Gordy was being shady and Mary was being stupid and she fell for it.

  40. #40
    Quote Originally Posted by waynesville View Post
    The fact that Berry hated Stoned Love is really telling in my opinion. Pragmatically of course, you're right. Berry was the boss and what he said went. But he wasn't always right and mishandling Jean was a collossal error IMO.
    And there it is. Sometimes I do get the feeling that there's a spirit among some of the fandom that Gordy can't be questioned because he was the head of a label that gave us so much terrific music, and ultimately made legit stars of some of them. Gordy did so many things right, and the fact that we spend so much time talking about his record label is a testament to that, but lets not play games. The man made some mistakes. He made some poor decisions. He mishandled situations and people. Call it like it is. That will never take away from the great decisions he's made. No one will ever be able to do that.

  41. #41
    Quote Originally Posted by RanRan79 View Post
    I wouldn't say this is an accurate way of judging her "Supremeness", being about 20 years after her consideration for the group. I'd be curious to see video from about that time. Not that I ever bought that Gordy seriously considered replacing Jean with Syreeta. If the conversation Mary claims took place between her and Gordy the morning after the farewell show is true, I personally think Gordy was being shady and Mary was being stupid and she fell for it.
    Yes, you're probably right about seeing some video of her at the time of
    the consideration. I always wondered what 'her' spin on joining The Supremes was? I've only heard of Berry's interest and Mary's non-interest.

  42. #42
    Quote Originally Posted by RanRan79 View Post
    Yup. People sign recording contracts to become successful. People who sing (or play instruments, maybe even write songs) who do it as a hobby enter talent shows and contests, join choirs and choruses, gig around on the local circuit. Signing a contract is serious business. It says this is what you hope becomes your livelihood, and for a record label to sign someone and then say "but we aren't obligated to do anything else for you", that's some bullshit. And that's essentially the attitude Motown seems to have had. In addition to that, it was a company that wanted as much control over the artists as possible, and they often achieved that with the contracts.

    Stevie is often referred to as a genius musically, but apparently he wasn't lacking in the intelligence department either because his common sense allowed him to figure that he needed legal representation if he were going to be the kind of artist he wanted to be at Motown. One does have to wonder the magic (more magic) we would have gotten from Marvin had he done the same and not fallen for Motown's bullshit. On the other hand, we also have to wonder how much more magical and successful Motown would have been throughout the 70s if they hadn't continued to fight tooth and nail to exert total creative control over the talented people who were on their roster.

    Me thinks Gordy and company were a bit too full of themselves.
    You hit the nail on the head with all of this.

    And yeah if I sign a recording contract, I expect for that label to give me all the support they can muster. It's silly to sign someone and then not work with them. And some folks defending Motown's practices in regards to Syreeta here disappoints me. Like they honestly think she should've been happy to stay in a label for more than a decade WITHOUT MUCH SUPPORT?! AYFKM? LOL

    You know if you sign a contract, you have to expect to be both artistically and financially able. But this is why it's stressed that many artists seek legal representation as you said. Otherwise, Stevie would've probably been in the same boat as Marvin was.
    Last edited by midnightman; 04-08-2018 at 12:34 PM.

  43. #43
    Quote Originally Posted by RanRan79 View Post
    I wouldn't say this is an accurate way of judging her "Supremeness", being about 20 years after her consideration for the group. I'd be curious to see video from about that time. Not that I ever bought that Gordy seriously considered replacing Jean with Syreeta. If the conversation Mary claims took place between her and Gordy the morning after the farewell show is true, I personally think Gordy was being shady and Mary was being stupid and she fell for it.
    I honestly don't think Syreeta was ever considered to be a Supreme, she was working with Stevie during this time. No way was she gonna just abruptly stop that to get into a glitzy gown and perform Stoned Love!

  44. #44
    Quote Originally Posted by luke View Post
    If Berry Gordy could handle Diana Ross who slapped him across the face you’d think he could handle Jean!
    But how did he handle Diana Ross? Any unbiased examination of that relationship definitely reveals something that is not the fabled relationship that is popular (They loved each other, she wanted to please him, he wanted to give her the world, blah, blah, blah). I think this quote from Mary Wilson is very telling:

    "Berry was toughest on Diane. He expected the most of her, made her life more difficult than I suppose ours were. Many times people thought he was abusing her. I remember him shouting at her, accusing her of things that she hadn't done. Flo and I would just watch. What could we do? We were just girls; I think we were scared of Berry."

    Mary is obviously referring to the 1960s. If the first time Diana Ross knocked the hell out of Berry Gordy was all the way in 1975, I'd say she must have been easily handled, because I know a lot of women who would've fucked him up long before then.

    But handling Diana and Jean ultimately came down to one big difference. Gordy was willing to go the distance to give Diana the one thing she seemed to crave the most: stardom. If Mary's words are to be believed, Diana obviously allowed herself to be handled in the most disrespectful of ways, apparently all so that she could sit at the top. Jean proved that she wasn't willing to do any and everything to be at the top, hence why we only got one post Supremes album from her. And while I'm sure Gordy believed in Jean's talent- she wouldn't have been a Supreme otherwise- he had to have known that handling Jean would take a different approach to handling Diana. And part of handling Diana was breaking her off a piece.

    I believe he was smart enough to know how to handle Jean. He just chose not to handle her at all.

  45. #45
    Quote Originally Posted by midnightman View Post
    Back on topic, I think Syreeta was more an artist than a simple pop singer. She wrote most of her own material and I would look at her as an albums artist. That's the way at least her first three albums went, like Syreeta, SWPS and One to One were more artistic endeavors than someone seeking a hit. It's kinda like Minnie Riperton around this same time though unlike Syreeta, she did manage to score a huge pop hit with "Lovin' You".
    I can agree with this. Syreeta's first two albums (I haven't heard the third one in it's entirety) definitely fit the new wave of 70s albums being a total package, as opposed to the 60s model of a hit or two being surrounded by filler, often throwaway cuts. Had Motown promoted Syreeta in that vein, she might have caught on.

  46. #46
    Her 1980 was her best album in my opinion.

  47. #47
    Quote Originally Posted by lakeside View Post
    Yes, you're probably right about seeing some video of her at the time of
    the consideration. I always wondered what 'her' spin on joining The Supremes was? I've only heard of Berry's interest and Mary's non-interest.
    You bring up a good point. I don't believe I've ever heard/read Syreeta's account about the idea of her joining the group. I'm curious if anyone else is privy to her side of things.

  48. #48
    Quote Originally Posted by midnightman View Post
    You hit the nail on the head with all of this.

    And yeah if I sign a recording contract, I expect for that label to give me all the support they can muster. It's silly to sign someone and then not work with them. And some folks defending Motown's practices in regards to Syreeta here disappoints me. Like they honestly think she should've been happy to stay in a label for more than a decade WITHOUT MUCH SUPPORT?! AYFKM? LOL

    You know if you sign a contract, you have to expect to be both artistically and financially able. But this is why it's stressed that many artists seek legal representation as you said. Otherwise, Stevie would've probably been in the same boat as Marvin was.
    LOL Yes, that's it! It feels a lot like the sentiment is people should've just been happy to be a Motown artist. Wasn't it Jean Terrell who said she was basically being told that she should be happy with two dollars because she was only making one dollar before (or something similar to that)? In what other industry is this mentality okay? (Although let's be real, it does happen in other jobs, although I can't imagine anyone declaring that it's okay.) Why is it good for Motown to demand things of it's artists but a bad idea for the artists to demand things of Motown?

  49. #49
    Quote Originally Posted by midnightman View Post
    I honestly don't think Syreeta was ever considered to be a Supreme, she was working with Stevie during this time. No way was she gonna just abruptly stop that to get into a glitzy gown and perform Stoned Love!
    I'm guessing there may have been a moment in 1969 when Gordy was looking for Diana's replacement where he may have toyed with the idea, since the two women did have a similar sound. But there's no way that after the recordings and rehearsals with Jean, and then Gordy introducing Jean to the "world" as Diana's replacement that he would have then kicked Jean to the curb and added Syreeta. The Supremes were still a viable commodity and while Gordy's first priority was Ross' solo career, he still wanted the Supremes' money and he wouldn't have messed with that by pulling that kind of switcharoo and then having to delay everything the Supremes had lined up in order to acclimate Syreeta to the group.

    If Gordy called Mary that morning and said he wanted Jean out and Syreeta in, it was because he knew Mary was going to buck against it, thereby giving him a way to turn his prized group over to someone else so he could focus on his soon to be future baby mama. And like I said, Mary fell for it. She should have said "Sure Berry, whatever you want to do". Gordy would have stuttered and stammered, not expecting that response, and then he would've had to call Mary back later and say that he changed his mind again. Because soon enough Jean would give him all the reason he needed to wash his hands of the group.

  50. #50
    Quote Originally Posted by RanRan79 View Post
    I'm guessing there may have been a moment in 1969 when Gordy was looking for Diana's replacement where he may have toyed with the idea, since the two women did have a similar sound. But there's no way that after the recordings and rehearsals with Jean, and then Gordy introducing Jean to the "world" as Diana's replacement that he would have then kicked Jean to the curb and added Syreeta. The Supremes were still a viable commodity and while Gordy's first priority was Ross' solo career, he still wanted the Supremes' money and he wouldn't have messed with that by pulling that kind of switcharoo and then having to delay everything the Supremes had lined up in order to acclimate Syreeta to the group.

    If Gordy called Mary that morning and said he wanted Jean out and Syreeta in, it was because he knew Mary was going to buck against it, thereby giving him a way to turn his prized group over to someone else so he could focus on his soon to be future baby mama. And like I said, Mary fell for it. She should have said "Sure Berry, whatever you want to do". Gordy would have stuttered and stammered, not expecting that response, and then he would've had to call Mary back later and say that he changed his mind again. Because soon enough Jean would give him all the reason he needed to wash his hands of the group.
    I enjoy your posts RanRan but no I don't agree with the point about replacing Jean.

    Many times BG would second guess himself at the last minute. He did this when it was time to release Mahogany (wanted to can the whole movie) and on the release of What's Going On and several releases where Diana was concerned. Keep Me Hangin' On was to come out before Can't Hurry Love, but he swapped it.

    I think, from talking to Mary and comments made by Cindy, that Gordy was more concerned with getting Diana out of the group with a hit and not paying much attention to Jean's attitude. On the night of Farewell Jean put him in his place, something BG didn't take well especially from a woman. I think he was dead serious about replacing her with Syreeta, without knowing or caring if Syreeta was really interested. I think the main reason Jean was saved was because when he got back to LA he found out Syreeta wanted to marry and work solely with Stevie, not interested in Supremes. The group had it's first single coming out in a few weeks so he was kinda stuck with Jean.

    As far as how serious did talks with Syreeta go before deciding on Jean, they didn't go far. There was one meeting between Syreeta with Mary and Cindy, who both had already met Jean, and it was brief and decisive; they wanted Jean Terrell.

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