Belfast Telegraph

A heatwave is coming as Martha Reeves And The Vandellas hits Belfast

By Grania McFadden

The weather outside may be less than tropical, but inside the Festival Marquee they're preparing for a heatwave. Soul legends Martha Reeves And The Vandellas will be cranking up the temperature with a show that will bring the house (if not the tent) down.

Sean Kelly and his team have surpassed themselves in bringing one of the most successful Motown acts in the history of that label to the cobbled streets of the Cathedral Quarter for this year's closing concert. And what songs they'll be singing! Heatwave, Jimmy Mack, Nowhere To Run, Bless You ... "Our songs have always been about love, happiness, joy and partying," said Martha.

Reeves was born in Alabama in 1941, the oldest girl in a family of 11. By the time she was a year old the family had moved to Detroit, and by the time she was three she was singing in church with her two older brothers.

She was taught to sing by her mother, while her father played guitar "... sometimes with John Lee Hooker... he was a good old blues guitarist and he had a beautiful voice".

By the time Reeves hit her teens she had a single ambition: to be a singer. She took her first steps to stardom long before we'd heard of Aretha or Dionne.

Back in 1961 she quit her job as a cleaner and headed to Hitsville USA, the tiny building which would become a musical powerhouse, producing more than 100 US Top 10 hits.

Martha and her backing band, The Vandellas, were inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame back in 1995, and in 2004 Martha released her first solo album for 24 years, before jumping the musical ship to serve on Detroit City Council.

In recent years she's held court at Ronnie Scott's in London, Carnegie Hall, The Blue Note in Milan and the Dakota Jazz Club.

Dancing In The Street, considered to be the anthem of Motown (and the civil rights movement), is now preserved in a time capsule at the Library of Congress alongside Stevie Wonder's Signed, Sealed, Delivered and Marvin Gaye's What's Going On?

Now in her 70s, and a legend in her own lifetime, Martha has no plans to step out of the spotlight. She says the years fall away when she steps onto the stage: "Heatwave is a fountain of youth. I'm young again when I sing it. Dancing In The Street is pure joy. When I hear that music, my heart jumps. And Jimmy Mack could come back or not but I'm still gonna call him.

"I'm going to sing as long as I'm able; I'm going to dance as long as I can," she said.

Martha Reeves And The Vandellas play the Festival Marquee, tonight, 8pm

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