Top Ten Songs by Mary Wells

1. “What’s Easy For Two Is So Hard For One” (1964)-This placed at no. 29 in the top 40, the flip side of “You Lost The Sweetest Boy”. I like this song, but “What’s Easy” was actually better, to me. And it was written by William “Smokey” Robinson.

2. “Operator” (late ’62-early ’63)-This was also a flip or B-side to “Two Lovers”. Both songs were also written by Robinson. I also think this was the better song and would have made top 10, like “What’s Easy”, had they been released as an A-side. They’re that good.

3. “You Beat Me To The Punch” (1962)-This was Wells’ second return to the top 10 with a wallop, a no. 9 smash. This was also the first Motown song(and Wells was the first Motown star)to be nominated for a Grammy!

Wells and Robinson were a great match and were red-hot between 1962 and ’64, resulting in five top 20 hits during this time.

4. “My Guy” (1964)-This was a no. 1 smash and the one that changed everything (also written and produced by Robinson), becoming Wells’ biggest hit, and her return to the top ten since 1962.

It was an instant classic then and remains one today. I would venture to say it’s one of the most recognizable and best-loved songs of all time. Wells knocked The Beatles from no. 1! “My Guy” stayed in the top ten for over two months. And it won the singer international acclaim. But all the acclaim was also Wells’ undoing (This would be a year of triumph and farewell). The singer had just turned 21, and it was time for contract renewal. Because of Wells’ popularity, larger record labels came a-courtin’. (And the singer was also urged on by her first husband, Herman Griffin.) One of them, 20th Century Fox, offered her $500,000 with a two-year option contract, compared to Motown’s three cents-per-record-sold arrangement. The company also promised Wells a film career.

She signed.

5. “The One Who Really Loves You” (1962)-This was Wells’ and Robinson’s first collaboration, and Wells’ first top ten hit, a no. 8 smash.

6. “You Old Stand By” (1963)-Wells and Robinson only had mid-level success this year; this peaked at just no. 40.

7. “Laughing Boy” (1963)-This was a no. 15 hit. Berry Gordy was getting tired of the mid-level pop showing(He wanted more mainstream, crossover blockbusters) and decided to pull back on Wells’ promotion until a hit came up. Gordy went to Robinson, and Smokey responded.

8. “Old Love”-I don’t know if this song was a B-side or not; I DO know that it was on the B-side of the album “Mary Wells’ Greatest Hits”. It should have been released as an A-side single, it’s that good.

9. “What Love Has Joined Together”-This was also on the B-side of the abovementioned album. It’s a beautiful ballad that also would have made a great A-side single.

10. “Never, Ever Leave Me”-A post-Motown single that wasn’t a top 40 hit, this was another beautiful ballad. I don’t know if this was released on 20th Century Fox (which Wells left after only a year) or on Atco or Jubilee, for the singer was bounced from four labels between 1965 and 1983 (Actually through the ’70s, she had trouble getting record deals.) And she was unable to find a producer/writer who could give her the same attention of a Smokey Robinson.

Wells later said that she regretted her decision to leave Motown, but I think there was a brief return in 1968-“Two Lovers’ History” was released, but wasn’t a top 40 hit.

Despite this, Wells still continued to perform, becoming a popular oldies act until her untimely death in 1992.

But her music will always live on.


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