Friday, January 28, 2011

Celebrating the Career and Mourning the Loss of the Marvelous Gladys Horton (1945 - 2011), age 65, not 66

Photograph of Gladys Horton (1945-2011) is from here

I loved Motown music when growing up. All of the sounds emanating nationally and internationally from Detroit through the 1960s and 1970s found their way into my ears and through my body. Motown, for a time, was the music I most loved to dance to. For this reason and others, I mourn the loss of one of the most distinctive, upbeat-while-plaintive female lead singers of that era and genre, Gladys Horton. At fifteen (!!), she brought Berry Gordy his first #1 smash hit: "Please Mr. Postman" which would later be picked up and whitened by the Beatles.

What is strange to me is that Ms. Horton's passing has been noted (briefly) in some media, including in print media, but they can't agree on what day she passed, nor how old she was at the time of her passing. I know there was controversy about when George Harrison was born: February 24th or 25th? This confusion can happen whenever anyone is born or passes close to midnight. Medical reports may written up recording a time that may differ from eye-witness accounts of such indelible moments into and out of live. But this level of erroneous reporting seems totally messed up to me (and when I say "messed up" what I mean is racist and sexist). Will the age and date-of-death of any of the white British male band-mates who comprised members of The British Invasion, to name but one music genre contemporaneous with a portion of the U.S.'s Motown success, be misrepresented in the mass media, and in Billboard, specifically? Will media really get wrong the day and age of any living member of The Dave Clark Five, or Herman's Hermits, for example, when such time comes when one of them passes on?

Can no one at the Associated Press do the math? She was born on May 30, 1945, which would mean she lived only until the terribly young age of 65. She would have turned 66 later this year.

The cause and specifics of her health struggles also remind me of the very lethal scourge that is cardiovascular disease among all U.S. women, but particularly African American women, what with it being a stress-related condition, with Black women having to endure and resist the systematic assaults and everyday aggravations both of racism and sexism from birth on to what is far too often an early death.

What follows was found by me at and may be linked back to by clicking on the title. This material produced largely by the Associated Press, is edited by me and those edits appear in the form of strike-throughs, the adding of the correct age, and minor additions to the text which appear in bold and in brackets. The material is being reproduced here for the purposes of honoring an artist's life and passing, for political commentary and analysis, and not for material or personal gain.

Gladys Horton of the Marvelettes Dies at 66 65

by Associated Press  |   January 27, 2011 12:02 EST
Getty Images

The Marvelettes
Gladys Horton, who co-founded the 1960s Motown group The Marvelettes and sang on hits including "Please Mr. Postman," has died in Los Angeles at age 66 [65].

Her son, Vaughn Thornton, says Horton died Wednesday night [not on Thursday, as some media are reporting] in a Sherman Oaks nursing home where she had been recovering from a stroke.

Video: The Marvelettes sing "Please Mr. Postman"
Horton was a teenager in the Detroit suburb of Inkster when she and some friends formed a group they called "The Casinyets," which was short for "can't sing yet."

When Georgia Dobbins had to leave, Horton became lead singer. The group changed its name to The Marvelettes, and Horton was 15 when Motown released "Please Mr. Postman" in 1961. "Postman" reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 on Dec. 16, 1961 and was the first No. 1 for Berry Gordy's Motown Record Corporation.

The Marvelettes went on to chart a total of 23 Hot 100 hits, including "Postman," "Playboy" (No. 7), "Beechwood 4-5789" (No. 17) and "Don't Mess With Bill" (No. 7). Horton was replaced as lead singer in 1965 and left the group two years later.

(Additional reporting by Monica Herrera,


  1. Thank you for this. When reformers and progressives talk about the society having changed and become a less oppressive place for all, we need really only point at life expectancies for people who experience multiple forms of oppression daily to see how little things have truly changed. I try to think positively about having potentially another forty years to go. But the reality is that my father died two years ago in his sixties unexpectedly. The more things "change"...

  2. Hi Dark Daughta,

    I'm so sorry for the loss of your father. My own father also died way too young, before I turned twenty, of heart disease.

    I see little to no evidence, on any major scale, of the lives of Black and Brown women and men being less burdened and less oppressed. As I hear it from white people, the insistence that "life is better" becomes yet another form of denial, privilege, and invalidation of the experiences of those in society who pay the highest price with their health and their lives.

    I wonder all the time about how my father's life would have unfolded and I miss him even while his passing was quite a long time ago.

    My heart goes out to you for your loss--which to me sounds terribly recent. I hope you had a loving and close relationship with him with good memories to hold dear.

    And, my heart goes out to the loved ones of Gladys Horton as well. At least they and the general public have videos and recordings by which to remember her talent.

  3. Thanks, Julian Real. It was, as I wrote, only two years ago. Ours was a complicated relationship in love but also in struggle. He was, after all, a man, a patriarch. He was also the abuser of my mother...who she sent me to live with...who did love me but who also did not understand me.

    The memories are...complex. I struggle with them. I deal with them. I'm in counseling. :)

    I think you're right about the denial based in privilege that allows space for them to not see what's right under their noses. We do die young very often especially when we live in the cities or in north amerikkka as opposed to in other places in the amerikkkas.

    I think there is something about proximity to that much white domination, sitting next to it on the bus, walking into stores to buy from it, being policed by it, being taught by it in schools, having even local news dominated by's so pervasive.

    I do think that this is what sticks in our throats, clogs our arteries, sends clots to our brains, dis/eases us and eventually stops our hearts cold.

  4. Thank you for sharing that with me, Dark Daughta.

    I'm sorry to hear your mother was abused and that your relationship with your father was complex, but am not surprised.

    I know of very, very few people who had fathers around who didn't have similar experiences. Sadly. Tragically.

    I feel that your last two paragraphs just should be made available, like running text on the bottom of the screens tuned into CNN, interrupting all scheduled programming. Because what you wrote there feels TRUE to me in a way that most of what the media communicates is total CRAP. So thank you for stating that and putting it here. I hope people who are in mass media read it and register, deeply, the implications of all of that when discussing "what we can do to better our health". What we can do is end white supremacy and patriarchy. That'd go a long way to improve the life expectancy and quality of life both of people who are not white and people who are not male.

    Blessings to you. I hope your therapist is excellent. If they don't get your experience, or minimise the role of racism and misogyny in shaping it, I hope you have the option to ditch 'em. I am VERY lucky, and privileged, to have a great therapist who "gets it" about systematic political oppression. She's the only person I know of in the region who does, who is a psychotherapist. So I'm wishing you at least as good a therapist as she is. And I know that's wishing a lot.