Fifty years ago, Martha Reeves was part of the first Motown Review, traveling with the Miracles, Stevie Wonder and the Supremes. A soulful, bluesy little tune she performed with Marvin Gaye, "Come and Get These Memories," landed her name on the charts and her song on the airwaves.
She was a hit then, and today, this golden-voiced girl and her delightfully stalwart Vandellas continue to invite audiences to grab the memories as they rock the stage at the Howard Theatre on Saturday night.
It is doubtful that her fans will let her get away without hearing the hits that are her stock and trade, such as "My Baby Loves Me" and her signature "Dancing in the Street." In addition to these celebrated gems, her shows are often highlighted by sultry renderings of Billie Holiday's "God Bless the Child" or Duke Ellington's "I Got It Bad."
As if brought back to a past she remembers well and fondly, she will belt the gospel-inspired "Nowhere to Run" with fervor today that has been delicately tempered by time and experience.
|Martha Reeves and the Vandellas|
|Where: Howard Theatre, 620 T St. NW|
|When: 8 p.m. Saturday|
|Info: $30 in advance, $35 day of; 202-803-2899; thehowardtheatre.com|
"My gospel influence still shows," she said. "I was raised in a Methodist church, my grandfather's church at that. That's where I learned to sing. I like harmonies. I like blending my voice with others."
Enter the Vandellas, in various configurations over the years. With them, Reeves recorded a string of hit singles in the mid-'60s that included "(Love Is Like a) Heat Wave" and "Jimmy Mack." Today, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas is a sister act extraordinaire, with Lois and Delphine completing an evergreen trio that continues to fill houses wherever the group performs.
"We're locked for life," she told the press. "Lois was with me in 1968. She'd go away and come back. We've always sung together as a family. Delphine's been with me since 1980."
They had all the moves then -- they have all the moves now.
"Every Motown act had routines to go with the lyrics, and it was visible when we performed" she noted. "Our greatest group, of course, was the Temptations. But we all had the choreography."
In 2012, Reeves landed on the Billboard charts again with a hit song recorded with techno DJ duo the Crystal Method. The title is quintessential Martha -- "I'm Not Leaving."