Any mention of the word Motown brings to mind the one song that has become the anthem of an era of music never to be repeated: Dancing in the Streets, by Martha Reeves and the Vandellas.
For over 51 years, the voice of Reeves has brought audiences to their feet around the world with signature hits such as Jimmy Mack, Heat Wave and Nowhere to Run.
Motown was magic, said the still energetic Reeves just hours before performing a one-night only show September 27 at The Carlyle Club. I was in the right place at the right time and saw it all happen.
Born in Alabama but raised in Detroit, Reeves was working at a dry cleaners when she was asked by Motown exec William Stevenson to audition for the label. When she showed up on the wrong day, fate stepped in when Stevenson had to leave suddenly to plan a recording session for Marvin Gaye. Reeves stayed to answer the phones and ended up becoming Stevensons secretary.
Fate played a hand again when Mary Wells failed to show up for a recording session and Reeves filled in. Thats when Motown founder Berry Gordy took notice and signed her to a contract.
God is good, said the 67 year-old Reeves. When you pray, your prayers do come true.
Reeves was in Washington last week to attend the Congressional Black Caucus as well as to lobby Capitol Hill for a cause she is passionate about radio station royalties for recording artists, especially those that were the trailblazers in the music industry.
Artists like Carl Gardner of the Coasters taught us all and led the way, said Reeves, notably frustrated when talking about the issue. Carl has throat cancer now and could use the financial resources. The Internet pays, XM pays, but local radio stations do not pay for our music.
Reeves continued, We wore our bodies out singing all over the country and were never paid for any of those record hops. Im hoping to do something about that.
When Reeves is not lobbying politicians in Washington, she plays one back in Detroit, serving as an elected city councilwoman since 2005.
I only work singing on the weekends to concentrate on city council work, said Reeves as she reviewed stacks of council documents in her dressing room prior to taking the stage.
When asked about the recent scandal involving the now former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, a saddened Reeves said, It was hard to see politics turn into a soap opera that the whole world was watching.
Initially urged by a friend to run for office, Reeves is hoping to learn more and will continue to serve as long as she feels she can make a difference.
I try to work hard, especially for senior citizens, of which I am one, said Reeves. I dont feel they have a voice and as long I can be effective and appreciated, I want to help.
But Reeves didnt hesitate when asked whom she would rather be around. No question. Musicians. They have a camaraderie that just doesnt exist with politicians.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee and one of Rolling Stone Magazines Top 100 artists of all time has no intention of slowing down anytime soon.
I try to be still and listen to God, said a clearly happy and at peace Reeves. If I learn something every day, Ill keep growing, Ill be useful, and hopefully, always be able to serve.
And with that, Reeves took to the stage and brought yet another audience to its feet with her trademark hits and a voice that still soars.