Wanda Young, Motown Legend, Dies at 78

by Lauren Boisvert

Wanda Young, Motown singer and member of The Marvelettes, died on December 15 of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, according to the New York Post. She was 78. Young is survived by three children, seven grandchildren, one great-grandchild, four sisters, and four brothers.

Wanda Young first joined The Marvelettes in 1961, when her Inkster, Michigan high school classmate Gladys Horton convinced her to audition for an open spot in the group. Their first single was the hit “Please, Mr. Postman.” Young sang lead vocals until the group disbanded in 1970.

“Please, Mr. Postman” was a huge success as a single when it released in 1961. It became the first Motown single to reach number 1 on the Hot 100. The group had to leave school to tour, as they were all still in high school at the time. By the mid-60s, they were working with Smokey Robinson, and Wanda Young was lead vocalist.

When the group disbanded in 1970, Young continued to work with Smokey Robinson as a producer. He billed her album as a return of the Marvelettes, but none of the other Marvelettes agreed to sing on the record, and it flopped.

Despite a failed return, Wanda Young is still considered a Motown legend; The Marvelettes had a huge influence on Motown music despite being a group of teenagers from Michigan. Just goes to show that talent can come from anywhere.

Wanda Young Collaborator Smokey Robinson Describes His Scary Time in the Hospital

Smokey Robinson, who frequently collaborated with the Marvelettes and Wanda Young in the 60s, shared his experience with COVID-19 last December, saying that he almost died during the experience. In October 2021, he was honored at the Power of Love Gala, and shared his thoughts about his hospitalization.

“I am a Covid survivor,” he said. “I was hospitalized for 11 days. Four of five of those, I do not even remember. Even when I got home, I was hoarse, I could not try to sing because I was afraid. It was one of the most frightening fights.”

Robinson was terrified he would never sing again. But, he had his health, and his doctors accredited his survival to how well he had taken care of himself in his advanced age. “They told me that it was lucky for me especially at my age that I’d taken care of myself,” he said. “But for the grace of God and that fact I probably would not be here talking right now.”

According to Robinson, he is still recovering. His singing ability has most likely suffered, and he is probably not back to 100 percent, but he seems to recognize the fact that at least he’s still alive after his harrowing experience, and that’s what matters.