Brenda Holloway

Brenda Holloway gained notice as one of the first successful singers at Motown in the 1960's, had a few hits, and later worked as a back-up singer.

Brenda was born in Atascadero, California in 1946. As a child she studied classical violin but as she grew older, Brenda developed a liking for pop music. By the time she reached 14, she was singing back-up for some local Los Angeles-area R&B acts. She also made demos, at times working with her sister Patrice, who was five years her junior. Brenda made her first recording as a solo act, Hey Fool, in 1962.

A soul singer and songwriter, she signed a recording contract with Motown. In early 1964 Brenda recorded Every Little Bit Hurts, a song that had been written by Ed Cobb of the Four Preps. When it went to #13 that spring Brenda had her first hit, at the age of 17. The song would later be covered in England by the Spencer Davis Group, with Steve Winwood on lead vocals. Brenda's next single to reach the top forty was one that was written and produced by Smokey Robinson, When I'm Gone, the following year.

Brenda Holloway was somewhat unusual as a Motown singer in the 60's in that for one thing, she was from the West Coast, and for another, she was a songwriter and a performer. She struggled at times with "creative differences" with Motown chief Barry Gordy, particularly over Gordy's insistence that she record some of the songs recorded earlier by Brenda's good friend Mary Wells (such as When I'm Gone), who had left Motown in 1964. Brenda performed on some of the top music television shows of the mid-60's, most notably Shindig!, as well as joining Dick Clark's Caravan of Stars for a time. She toured with the Beatles at their invitation as their opening act, including at their first appearance at Shea Stadium.

Brenda's third and final top forty pop single as a recording artist on Gordy's Tamla label was a song she had written with her sister Patrice, with input from Frank Wilson and Barry Gordy, titled You've Made Me So Very Happy in 1967. It went to #39 but became a giant hit two years later, number 2 pop, in a version recorded by Blood, Sweat & Tears, the first hit for that group. Others recorded the song also and Holloway was able to collect royalites for it.

She continued recording with Motown and a group of her recordings were collected on an album, The Artistry of Brenda Holloway. Brenda had some minor R&B hits (Just Look What You've Done, Operator) and some minor pop hits (Together Till The End Of Time, You Can Cry On My Shoulder). Barry Gordy was turning his attention to a possible move to the West Coast and leaving some of the decisions to others. One might think that this would put Brenda in a favorable position, being familiar with the music scene in her hometown of Los Angeles, but what happened was that the talented singer suffered from a lack of support and adequate promotion. By the end of 1968 she left Motown.

Brenda and her sister Patrice worked as back-up singers, primarily for Joe Cocker, as well as for others. She retired form the music business for a time. Brenda received some setbacks when her friend Mary Wells contracted throat cancer and passed away in 1992, and when her sister Patrice succumbed to a fatal heart attack in 2006. Brenda returned to recording and performing intermittently over the years. Her most recent album was recorded in 2003, My Love Is Your Love.

Brenda left the music world with some memorable hit songs in the 1960's. Her career is most distinguised by her recording of her biggest hit, Every Little Bit Hurts, and as the co-writer of You've Made Me So Very Happy.

Most Recent Update: December 1, 2010

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