BY WALTER OPINDE
Today, the 21st June, Brenda Holloway celebrates her 72nd birthday.
Holloway is an African-American singer and songwriter, who was a recording artist for Motown Records during the 1960s. Her best-known recordings are the soul hits, “Every Little Bit Hurts”, “When I’m Gone”, and “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy.” The latter, which she co-wrote, was later widely popularized when it became a Top Ten hit for Blood, Sweat & Tears. She left Motown after four years, at the age of 22, and did not retire from the music industry until the 1990s, after her recordings had become popular on the British “Northern Soul” scene.
As a Californian teen, Holloway recorded for the legendary Motown label in the 1960s. As a noted beauty, she joined the Detroit label and released her first single in 1964, just before the explosive success of label-mates Diana Ross and the Supremes. Although she later faded into obscurity, Holloway actually wrote some of her own songs; a rarity for a female rhythm and blues (R&B) performer at the time; and is also noteworthy as the first West Coast act that Motown ever signed. Less than a decade later, the company abandoned its Detroit roots and moved its headquarters to Southern California.
Holloway was born in Atascadero, California, becoming the eldest of three children to Wade and Johnnie Mae (Fossett) Holloway. In 1948, she and her infant brother, Wade, Jr., moved with their parents to the Watts section of Los Angeles where her sister, Patrice, was born in 1951. Brenda took up the violin, flute, and piano and sang in her church choir, as well as developing a love of classical music. At the age of 14 years, Brenda began working on demonstration records and singing backup for Los Angeles-based R&B acts, and with the young Patrice.
In 1962, Holloway made her recording debut with the single, “Hey Fool”, released on the small Donna record label. That same year, at the age of 16 years, she recorded the first version of Ed Cobb’s ballad, “Every Little Bit Hurts”, released as a single by Del-Fi Records. She also recorded duets with Hal Davis for the Minasa and Snap labels and worked with other local recording artists. After graduating from Jordan High School, she further studied music at Compton Community College. Towards the end of 1963, she was invited by Davis to a deejay’s party, which Motown CEO – Berry Gordy Jr. was attending, and lip-synced to Mary Wells’ hit “You Beat Me to the Punch”. Gordy was impressed by Holloway’s looks, and subsequently by her vocal power, and opted to sign her to Motown. Holloway was aged 17 at the time and was Motown’s first West Coast signing.
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