MARY LOVE SOUL SURVIVOR.

MARY LOVE SOUL SURVIVOR.

From the day that Mary Love was born, she had to overcome obstacle after obstacle.  What Mary had to overcome during a truly traumatic childhood, would’ve broken most people. Not Mary Love though.  She was made of much stronger stuff, and valiantly made her way through a turbulent childhood.

By the age of seventeen, the time had come for Mary Love to make her own way in the world. That was when fate intervened, and Mary won a talent contest. Little did Mary Love realise that this was about to embark upon a musical career.  This she hoped would introduce her to a very different life to the one that she was about to leave behind.

It was in Sacramento, California that Mary Love was born in July 1943. Her mother Ramona Ann Hayes was just sixteen when Mary was born. Her father Manuel insisted Mary’s boyfriend Lawrence Allen marry Ramona not long after Mary was born. This wasn’t Manuel’s best idea.

One day, when Mary was just three months old, her father was meant to be looking after her. However, he attacked her with a bottle. When Ramona returned, this was too much. Ramona had already lead a difficult and troubled life and this pushed her over the edge. She left the home she shared with Manuel and Mary. This resulted in a sickly Mary being left in the care of her father and paternal grandmother.

Mary’s grandmother Alice discovered her granddaughter dehydrated, underweight and underfed. She also was suffering from pneumonia. The doctor that was called, didn’t think Mary would make it through the night. Incredibly, she did. Alice and Manuel looked after Mary, bringing her up as a christian. That was until her mother returned when Mary was seven.

From a relatively settled upbringing, Mary’s life was turned upside down. In Berkeley, California, Mary’s mother lived a chaotic lifestyle. The house was filthy, parties were a common occurrence and Ramona had a string of boyfriends. Some of these boyfriends turned out to be pimps. Whilst Ramona’s life spiralled out of control, Mary was looked after by her mother’s friends. Aged eight, Mary was almost homeless. Mary it seemed, came second to her mother’s latest boyfriend. Things got so bad, that aged eleven, the authorities were forced to intervene.

This resulted in Mary being taken into care. Ironically, the care home she was sent to, was across the street from her grandparent’s house. They’d split up. Manuel her father was still single, and wasn’t allowed to look after Mary. She was made a ward of court. For the next few years, Mary lived in foster homes. She was made a ward of court Some were better than other. Then when Mary became a teenager, it looked as if her life wasn’t going to improve.

Far from it. Aged seventeen, Mary was back living with Ramona. That’s when she was tricked into heading to Chicago by a pimp. Luckily, Mary was relatively streetwise, so escaped his clutches. Then, one night Mary’s luck turned.

When Mary saw there was a talent contest in a local club, she decided to enter. With Mary still living in the foster home, so music offered Mary an escape. Mary won the talent contest with a cover of Etta James’ Somebody’s Got A Hold On Me. This resulted in Mary being hired to sing every Thursday.  She was paid $8 a night. Accompanying Mary were The Vows, who she’d befriended. They’d friends in the music industry and were protective of Mary. So much so, that when Sam Cooke’s manager J.W. Alexander heard Mary sing, he’d to slip her his card.

The next day, J.W. Alexander and Mary Love met. He offered Mary the chance to sing on demos. This was her opportunity to make a life for herself. 

Having started singing demos, Hal Davis heard Mary. He liked what he heard and signed Mary to Modern Records. The only problem was her name. Hal though that Mary Love was a better name for a singer. So it was Mary Love that went on to record twelve tracks for Modern Records between 1965 and 1968. 

Mary Love’s Modern Records debut was You Turned My Bitter Into Sweet. It was released in April 1965, and became one of Mary biggest hit singles. The single sold especially well  around the Los Angeles area. This was enough to launch Mary Love’s career. Since then, You Turned My Bitter Into Sweet has become a favourite in the UK’s Northern Soul scene, and nowadays, is regarded as a Northern Soul classic.

Following Mary’s debut single, You Turned My Bitter Into Sweet, I’ve Got To Get You Back was released as Mary’s sophomore single in August 1965. Again, it sold well in the Los Angeles area, but failed to find an audience further afield. This would be a familiar story. The exception was Move A Little Closer. 

Released in in October 1968, Move A Little Closer reached number forty-eight in the US Billboard 100. This was Mary’s biggest hit. Ironically, Move A Little Closer wasn’t the A-Side. This was Let Me Know. When Move A Little Closer proved more popular,  Modern Records flipped the song over, and a hit was born. For Mary, she thought her career was now underway.

Sadly, Lay This Burden Down didn’t build on the success of Move A Little Closer, when was released in October 1966. Again, it failed to chart. It was a hit locally. So was the Ashford and Simpson penned Baby I’ll Come, where Mary mixes power, passion and emotion. It’s one of Mary’s best singles. Tucked away on the B-Side is the  hidden gem Satisfied Feeling on the B-Side. Released in February 1967, Mary delivers a vocal tour de force on Satisfied Feeling. After this, Mary would only release one more single for Modern Records.

Talkin’ About My Man was released in July 1967. Written by Arthur Adams, here was a ballad that seemed tailor-made for Mary. Despite this, widespread commercial success and critical acclaim eluded Mary. She did release a duet with Arthur Adams, Is That You. He seems to bring out the best in Mary. Sadly, this didn’t result in a hit single to end Mary’s time at Modern Records.

During her time at Modern Records, Mary divided her time between her solo career and singing backing vocals. Everyone from The Ikettes, Vernon Garrett and Lowell Fulson were accompanied by Mary. However, Mary was determined to make a success of her solo career.

In 1968, Mary met producers Matt Hill and Skip Layne. She recorded the anthemic The Hurt Is Just Beginning and Don’t Let It Happen. The Hurt Is Just Beginning garnered radio play in Los Angeles. This just happened to be during the trial of the Black Panther’s Huey Newton. They took to singing lyrics from the song: “The Hurt Is Just Beginning and don’t let it happen.” Not long after this, the B-Side, If You Change Your Mind, started getting radio play. It was released nationally on Josie, reaching number forty-six in the US R&B Charts. For Mary this was her second most successful single. Despite this, another three years passed before Mary released her next single.

Ironically, it was back in Sacramento that Mary met John W. Cole, friends of Mary’s grandparents. He was a businessman, who ran a chain of chemist and record shops. John wanted to expand his business. Next for John was the music business, and knew Roger Spotts, who played alongside Johnny and Shuggie Otis, two hugely talented musicians, arrangers and producers. So Roger would and arrange Mary’s next single at Ray Charles’ Los Angeles studio.

The Mary Love penned There’s Someone For Me was chosen as Mary’s next single. Roger would produce There’s Someone For Me and the B-Side, Born To Live With Heartache. Ray Charles even helped out during the session. He took charge of engineering. Beautiful, cathartic and soul-baring describes There’s Someone For Me. As for Born To Live With Heartache, Mary raises the funk factor and shows another side to her music. Both sides of this 1971 single, which was released on Elco are among some of Mary’s finest work. Sadly, history repeated itself when the single flopped. This resulted in Mary taking time out from the music industry.

It wasn’t until 1975 that Mary returned to music. She’d been raising her family and singing in nightclubs. However, she’d taken a break from recording. During that time, she’d hung out with Lou Rawls, Barry White, Willie Hutch and Dennis Edwards. Through her friendship with comedian, Rudy Ray Moore, Mary landed a part in the Blaxploitation movie Dolemite. Appearing as herself, Mary sings When We Start Making Love and Power Of Love which were part of the soundtrack released on Generation Records. That would be the last we heard of Mary for a couple of years.

Again, Mary was featuring in another film. This time it was Rudy Ray Moore’s Petey Wheatstraw. Mary penned five tracks for the film soundtrack, which was released on the Magic Disc label. Two of the tracks feature on Mary Love-Lay This Burden Down: The Very Best Of Mary Love. Joy and Loving You are gospel tinged tracks, very different from the disco inspired title-track. Unfortunately, commercial success still eluded Mary. Her career as a soul singer was almost at an end.

Over the next few years, Mary toyed with disco. She released Dance To My Music in 1979, on Inphasion. Although it wasn’t a hit in America, it was a hit in Italy. Then Mary spent three months living in Osaka, Japan, where she was part of Ah Sweet Tastes. They released a single Keep On Dancing, where Mary sings in Japanese and English. Mary’s final two releases were a 1982 cover of Tit For Tat, which was released on Elco. Mary’s final secular single was Save Me, which was released on U-Tone in 1984. After that, Mary Love became a gospel singer.  By then, Mary Love had realised The Price of fame was too much.

Indeed, by the time Mary was turned her back on secular music, she been to hell and back, several times. She’d become addicted to cocaine, crack and alcohol. When she was in her late twenties, Mary became dependent on alcohol. Aged thirty-seven, she became addicted to cocaine and crack. Mary was trying to block out the demons that haunted her. Previously, Mary had been raped, molested and a victim of a series of abusive relationships. However, Mary Love was a survivor. She came through all this and turned her back on secular music. The Price of fame was too high.

Turning her back on secular music, Mary became a successful gospel singer. ironically, Mary Love was one of the most successful gospel singers. Two of her gospel albums, 2002s Incredible and 2005s Mary, Mary were certified gold, while 2000s Thankful was certified platinum. Mary Love had at last enjoyed the success her voice and undoubtable talent deserved. This commercial success was on Mary’s terms. By then, she’d long overcome her addictions and was living happily. Mary Love had survived to tell the tale and enjoy the commercial success that came her way. Sadly, Mary passed away on June 23rd 2013. 

She was just seventy. Soul music had lost one of its greatest female singers. Although Mary Love didn’t enjoy the commercial success and critical acclaim her music deserved, her music is popular throughout the world, especially in the UK, where Mary was always a welcome visitor.That music is a reminder of a true soul survivor, Mary Love who was one of soul’s finest female singers.

MARY LOVE SOUL SURVIVOR.

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