Wanda Young, Motown’s The Marvelettes Singer, Dies at 78

Young was the lead vocalist on “Don’t Mess With Bill” and other hits penned by Smokey Robinson

Wanda Young in 1965
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Wanda Young, a member of the 1960s girl group “The Marvelettes” who sang the lead vocals on “Don’t Mess With Bill” among other chart-toppers, died Dec. 15 in Garden City, Michigan. She was 78.

Young’s daughter, Meta Ventress, told the New York Times that she died from complications of chronic obstructed pulmonary disease.

Born on Aug. 9, 1943 in Eloise, Mich., Young was still a teenager when she joined the quintet of singers who would become known as The Marvelettes on Berry Gordy, Jr.’s Motown Records.

Young replaced Georgia Dobbins in a group of high school classmates consisting of Gladys Horton, Katherine Anderson, Georgeanna Tillman and Juanita Cowart after they banded together for a talent show under the name Casinyets.

Her impressive vocal range won Horton over, and the two become co-lead singers when they signed to Motown in 1961. Led by Horton, “Please Mr. Postman” became the label’s very first No. 1 hit.

Young scored her own hit as lead singer with “Don’t Mess With Bill,” the Smokey Robinson song that secured the No. 7 spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 in chart in 1966. She also featured on the Robinson-penned singles “I’ll Keep Holding On” (1965), “The Hunter Gets Captured By The Game” (1967) and “My Baby Must Be A Magician” (1968).

As part of Motown’s Tamla label, The Marvelettes produced more than 20 hit singles.

After the group dissolved in 1970, Young recorded a solo album with help from female vocalist group The Andantes and Robinson. It was released that same year with the title “The Return of the Marvelettes.”

She would reunite with Horton on 1990’s “The Marvelettes: Now!” Among others, it featured “Don’t Mess With Bill.”

Young is survived by Robert III and Bobbae Rogers, her children with The Miracles’ Bobby Rogers to whom she was married until 1975. She is also survived by daughter Meta Ventress, along with seven grandchildren, a great grandson, four sisters and four brothers. She is predeceased by daughter Miracle Rogers.