Thursday, July 08, 2004

MOTOWNOBIT: Syreeta Wright, who recorded six albums for Motown, has died at the age of 58. Probably most familiar to a pop audience for her 1979 duet With You I'm Born Again, recorded with Billy Preston, Wright had started with Motown as a secretary. First pressganged into singing back-up vocals, she was then signed for a solo career by Berry Gordy and set to work with Ashford and Simpson as producers. Changing her name from Rita Wright en route, she was Stevie Wonder's wife for two years, during which she and Little Stevie wrote a slew of classic songs including Signed, Sealed, Delivered and It's A Shame. Although the marriage didn't last, the friendship and collaboration did, resulting in her 1974 album Stevie Wonder Presents Syreeta. (Syreeta had a pretty single-minded approach to naming albums, using 'Syreeta' twice as well.) She released her final solo work in 1983, although she remained working: in 1990 with a role as Mary Magdalene in a touring production of Jesus Christ, Superstar; and continuing to provide backing vocals for Wonder.

She died on Tuesday night following a long battle against cancer.

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