Brenda Holloway and Her Soul Brilliance


Brenda Holloway is an American singer-songwriter, and was a Motown Records artist during the 1960s. Her debut single, which she had recorded years back, was “Every Little Bit Hurts” which became a Top 20 pop hit and Top 10 R&B hit in 1964. Holloway’s follow-ups “I’ll Always Love You” “When I’m Gone” and another Wells cover “Operator” didn’t perform nearly as well as her debut single did.

Holloway also opened for the Beatles’ 1965 US tour. Probably due to distance, as she was based in Los Angeles and Motown was based in Detroit, she felt that Motown was giving her material the she otherwise less desired. She also began to write her own songs, often with her sister Patrice — one of the songs they worked on was “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy,” which would become a big hit for Blood Sweat & Tears.

Following the release of her second album she announced her retirement from the music business. She married a minister and raised a family. In 1980 Holloway made a comeback releasing gospel recordings, and since then she has been performing and recording occasionally. Her recordings remain especially popular in the UK’s Northern soul scene; she has also performed in the UK as well.

Holloway’s talents and charm waiting to be discovered…

R&B and soul singer-songwriter Brenda Holloway was born in Atascadero, California on June 21, 1946. Later she moved to Los Angeles along with her sister Patrice (who would grow up to be a professional singer on her own right). She learned to play piano and violin as well as discovered singing when she was a child.

Brenda and Patrice then became session vocalists at a young age; soon Brenda began cutting records herself for small labels, including the earliest version of her would-be hit “Every Little Bit Hurts.”

In 1963, Holloway sang her own rendition of (or more rather of lip-synched) “My Guy” by Mary Wells at a deejay party where Motown’s CEO Berry Gordy happened to be there. Gordy was struck by her vocal talent as well as her attractiveness, so he signed Holloway to his label’s Tamla division.

Biggest hit “Every Little Bit Hurts” as well as other charting singles

She released her debut single “Every Little Bit Hurts” in 1964. The single would eventually reach #13 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #3 on the R&B singles chart. The album, also titled Every Little Bit Hurts, was also issued that same year. Other singles that performed decently on the charts include “When I’m Gone” (#25 pop, #12 R&B), “I’ll Always Love You” (#60 pop), and “Operator” (#78 pop, #36 R&B).

Even the Beatles recognized her talent and brilliance that they invited Holloway to open for their US tour in 1965.

Later career and retirement

Holloway constantly traveled from her home city in Los Angeles to record in Detroit. Hurtin’ and Cryin’could have been Holloway’s follow-up album, but it was scrapped by the label, and Holloway felt that she wasn’t given so much importance compared to Motown’s other artists partly because she wasn’t based in Detroit.

She also started to write her own material, and one of her songs (co-written with her sister Patrice, and assisted by Gordy) “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy” became a minor hit in 1968, although it would become a major pop hit for Blood, Sweat & Tears in 1969. Holloway’s second album The Artistry Of Brenda Holloway was released in 1968. But she left Detroit and returned to Los Angeles, because of her disillusionment with Motown as well as apprehensions of the typical decadent lifestyle that would conflict with her still-deep religious beliefs. Holloway then married a minister and had a family with him, but the couple divorced after some years of marriage.

Holloway on the comeback trail

She returned to making music in 1980 with a gospel album Brand New. Holloway’s records are still popular within Britain’s Northern soul circuit. In 1987, she started to record secular singles again, recording and releasing Motown-style material for Ian Levine’s UK label Motorcity Records; in 1990 she released the album All It Takes.

The death of friend Mary Wells in 1992 motivated Holloway to return to performing, particularly around Los Angeles and on the UK as well. She often teamed with singer Brenton Wood in her live performances. In 1999 she released another album on Volt label, It’s a Woman’s World. As of 2012, Holloway is still active performing.

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