Whatever Happened to the Stars of the '60S and '70S

By Starling, Kelly | Ebony, April 1999 | Go to article overview
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Whatever Happened to the Stars of the '60S and '70S


Starling, Kelly, Ebony


From Martha Reeves to the Stylistics to Donna Summer, the music keeps on playing

PEOPLE called them soul singers. They were the ones who could wrap their hearts around a song and make it fly. In their words, we found comfort from the pain of breakups, testimony to the wonders of love and witness to the whimsy of life. Each time they sang a tune, it felt like it belonged to them while at the same time it seemed handwritten for us.

Some people can still remember just where they were and who they were with the first time they heard songs such as the Stylistics' "Betcha By Golly Wow," "Stay in My Corner" by the Dells or Martha and the Vandellas' "Dancing in the Street." These songs got our spirits pumping just a little bit more every time we heard them play.

It's been years since these songs reigned supreme on the charts. But as the music plays on from cherished record collections and "oldies" radio stations, some fans may have wondered whatever happened to the great acts of the '60s and '70s. The answer is nothing. They're still out there--performing, producing, promoting the music. You just have to know where to look.

In some cases, they've ventured into new styles. Several groups such as the Chi-Lites and the Dramatics have collaborated with rap artists and contemporary R&B singers. Others such as Donna Summer have tried new art forms such as painting or have used their celebrity to promote community activism. One singer, Jerry (The Iceman) Butler, has even succeeded in politics. But they're never far from the music. You can find your favorite singers grooving in videos, performing their classics at state fairs and in concerts and busy at work in the studio on ways to make a whole new generation dance to the rhythm of their songs.

The soul singers have never left us. On these pages, we bring you some of the top names from the past and take a look at what they're doing now.

Martha & The Vandellas

Remember the sassy Detroit girls who rocked the charts in the '60s with hits like "Love is Like a Heatwave," "Nowhere to Run," and "Ready for Love" as part of the Motown explosion? Today, Martha Reeves & the Vandellas continue to delight audiences at venues worldwide. Reeves lives in Detroit, where she landed her start as an assistant at Hitsville U.S.A. Before she was discovered, the songstress kept busy, typing, filing and singing backup on audition tapes for up-and-coming artists. But once given a chance, she soared to success. Reeves led the group through a string of hits that include "Dancing in the Street" and "Jimmy Mack." In recent years, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee has released solo albums, raised her son Eric and kept in touch With penpals around the globe. The original Vandellas, Rosalind Holmes and Annette Sterling, still travel and perform with her along with her sister Lois Reeves.

Jerry Butler

Called one of the architects of R&B, Chicago crooner Jerry Butler began his vocal career in 1958 when he and another young singer, Curtis Mayfield, formed The Impressions. Butler penned the group's first gold single, "For Your Precious Love," and later launched a solo career that included such hits as "He Will Break Your Heart," "Brand New Me" and "Only the Strong Survive." Today, the three-time Grammy Award nominee and Rock & Roll Hall of Famer enjoys a different kind of fame as a Cook County commissioner in Chicago. One of 17 officials, he helps approve the budget for the second-largest county in the nation. Butler still performs most weekends at supper clubs, concerts and music festivals.

The Stylistics

The sound of Philadelphia came alive in the smooth music and stylings of the Stylistics, known for their romantic ballads and silky moves. In 1970, the group's hit record. "You're a Big Girl Now" brought the trio national acclaim. The Stylistics scored a dozen Top 10 hits over the years, including songs such as "You Make Me Feel Brand New," "Break Up To Make Up" and "You Are Everything.

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