The Tumultuous Life of Motown's First Superstar
By Peter Benjaminson
(Chicago Review Press, Hardcover, 9781569762486, 320pp.)
Publication Date: November 2012
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Complete with never-before-revealed details about the sex, violence, and drugs in her life, this biography reveals the incredibly turbulent life of Motown artist Mary Wells. Based in part on four hours of previously unreleased and unpublicized deathbed interviews with Wells, this account delves deeply into her rapid rise and long fall as a recording artist, her spectacular romantic and family life, the violent incidents in which she was a participant, and her abuse of drugs. From tumultuous affairs, including one with R&B superstar Jackie Wilson, to a courageous battle with throat cancer that climaxed in her gutsiest performance, this history draws upon years of interviews with Wells’s friends, lovers, and husband to tell the whole story of a woman whose songs crossed the color line and whose voice captivated the Beatles.
Peter Benjaminson is the author of The Lost Supreme: The Life of Dreamgirl Florence Ballard and The Story of Motown, and is the coauthor of Investigative Reporting. He has written numerous stories for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Detroit Free Press. He lives in New York City.
"Superlative . . . Benjaminson attempts valiantly, painstakingly to resurrect the reputation of founding Supreme member Flo Ballard . . . [An] engaging biography." —Publishers Weekly on The Lost Supreme
"Peter Benjaminson pays tribute to the remarkable life of Mary Wells through a fascinating biography. His relentless research has resulted in not only a riveting tale of Wells's many personal battles but also a gripping snapshot of the music industry in which she worked. Motown's first superstar is given top-of-the-charts treatment in this terrific book." —Gerald Posner, author, Motown, Why America Slept, and Case Closed
"I thought I knew all there was to know about Mary Wells. I was wrong. Here, Peter Benjaminson tells Mary's story with great love and compassion in a way that informs even the so-called experts. I love Peter's work, and am happy to see Mary Wells finally be given the recognition she so deserves." —J. Randy Taraborrelli, author, Michael Jackson, After Camelot, and The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe
"Peter Benjaminson does an admirable job with Mary Wells, presenting thoroughly researched scholarship, but always going back to reminding the reader of the soaring voice, and wide heart, of Motown's first superstar." —Charles R. Cross, author, Heavier than Heaven and Room Full of Mirrors
"Mary Wells has finally found 'My Guy'—and it is her biographer Peter Benjaminson. This is a match made in music heaven." —Al Abrams, author, Hype & Soul: Behind the Scenes at Motown
"Peter exposes the raw truth contained in never-before-released audio interviews with Mary as she lay on her deathbed. This fascinating story hits bookstores everywhere on November 1." — Sister 2 Sister magazine
"Benjaminson (The Lost Supreme) delivers another excellent and fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the artists who made Motown Records a massive success in the 1960s." — Publishers Weekly
"A moving tribute to an artist who should not be forgotten . . . Benjaminson ably captures the artistic milieu of early Motown." —Kirkus Reviews
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For its 10th anniversary, the festival celebrates those who have dared to stand ‘on the edge,’ risking their careers, and sometimes their lives, to speak out for their art and beliefs. Join us for a wide range of events, including debates, one-on-one conversations, participatory workshops and performances in venues throughout the city. Use the code PEN14 (use PEN2014 for events at The Public Theater) and receive a 20 percent discount on most events. www.worldvoicesfestival.org