Motown Artist Martha Reeves Receives Star On Hollywood Walk Of Fame

After a years-long wait, an elated and emotional Martha Reeves was honored Wednesday with a milestone she has coveted: a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Decked out in a pearl-and-gold strapless gown and one sensational hat, the Detroit singer and Motown star was celebrated during an hourlong ceremony in Los Angeles, where her sidewalk plaque became the 2,776th in the 64-year history of the famed landmark.

Reeves’ star was unveiled at 7080 Hollywood Blvd., part of a Walk of Fame stretch where honorees include fellow Motowners such as the Supremes, the Temptations and the Miracles. “I’m just here by the grace of God,” Reeves said in an acceptance speech topped by an enthusiastic shoutout to Detroit.

Reeves, whose family moved north from Alabama when she was an infant, counted herself among the poor Black Southerners who migrated to Detroit to “find their place in history.” It was a Hollywood event that often felt like a grassroots family affair: The 82-year-old singer was saluted at the podium by Motown colleagues Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Mickey Stevenson and company founder Berry Gordy — all of them bantering with the chatty Reeves as she chimed in during their speeches.

“I am so thrilled to be here today to honor someone very special to Motown and me,” Gordy said. “She’s raw and she’s real. She may be sassy — but always classy.”

Gordy retraced Reeves’ Motown origins in the early 1960s, when the onetime secretary launched her recording career after being enlisted one day to substitute for an absent Mary Wells in the studio. Wonder applauded Reeves as an artist who “has continually spread the message of love” and said her Walk of Fame star was long overdue. He noted she was among the first people he met at Motown as an 11-year-old hopeful.

“Martha would listen to the songs that were halfway written, keep me from eating too much candy from the candy machine and encourage me to continue to write and study,” Wonder said, adding that Reeves helped “motivate me in singing and just being kind to people.” Wednesday’s ceremony honored a six-decade musical legacy that included Reeves’ breakout work with her group the Vandellas at Motown’s Hitsville, U.S.A., with hits such as “Dancing in the Street,” “Nowhere to Run,” “Jimmy Mack,” “Heat Wave,” “Honey Chile,” “Come and Get These Memories” and more.

Wednesday’s emcee, Variety magazine correspondent Angelique Jackson, noted that Reeves was honored in the Walk of Fame’s recording category. She also cited the singer’s 2005-09 tenure as a Detroit City Council member. The radiant Reeves looked very much in her element Wednesday, basking in her moment of glory while extolling her Detroit roots. “Ms. Powell taught me how to do this,” Reeves said as she strode up the steps to the stage — a reference to the late Motown etiquette coach Maxine Powell. Robinson called Reeves “one of our profound acts” and someone “who helped to put Motown on the map all over the world.” Stevenson, the Motown A&R chief who cowrote 1964’s “Dancing in the Street” with Marvin Gaye and Ivy Jo Hunter, praised Reeves’ work ethic.

“What’s really amazing about Martha is she never stopped,” Stevenson said. “She was insisting on being with Motown no matter what I said or thought. … I loved the voice. The problem was, we had so many girl singers — I’m saying, ‘Not another one.’ She said: ‘I’m not another one. I’m special.’”

Also on hand Wednesday were Motown alumni including Janie Bradford, Scherrie Payne and Claudette Robinson, along with retired Detroit Judge Craig Strong, singer Freda Payne and Reeves’ son, Eric Graham. After the Walk of Fame dedication, Reeves and company headed to a reception at the nearby Hollywood Roosevelt hotel. A Detroit celebration is planned for April, with a date and place to be announced soon.

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