The Billboard Hot 100 of 16 October 1971 marked the end of a notable chapter in Motown history. It contained the final new entry, on that chart, credited to Martha (Reeves) and the Vandellas, as the group debuted at No. 74 with ‘Bless You.’
The song was written and produced by the Corporation, the collective that included label founder Berry Gordy. The upbeat, spirited number had more than an echo, particularly in the verses, of the material being recorded at the time by the Corporation’s Motown priorities of the era, the Jackson 5. ‘Bless You’ was further embellished with some more time-honoured touches of the label’s trademark sound.
But while the J5 were continuing their red-hot streak — with four more R&B top three singles in 1971 to add to their already bulging catalogue of smash hits — Martha and the Vandellas would find their time at the label coming swiftly to an end. After that promising Hot 100 debut, and a soul chart entry the following week, ‘Bless You’ ran out of steam at No. 53 on the pop side, and No. 29 R&B. It went on to give Reeves and the group a UK top 40 entry early in 1972. As it peaked at No. 33, there was a new entry for one of the group’s oldest Motown compatriots, as Stevie Wonder arrived with ‘If You Really Love Me.’
The group had two further R&B chart entries, with ‘In And Out Of My Life’ and ‘Tear It On Down.’ But ‘Bless You’ turned out to be the end of a pop crossover story that had begun eight years earlier with ‘Come And Get These Memories,’ and embraced five top ten Hot 100 hits including, of course, the immortal ‘Heat Wave’ and ‘Dancing In The Street.’
‘Bless You’ is on 50th Anniversary: The Singles Collection 1962-1972, which can be bought here.