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  • Born: Philadelphia, PA
  • Died: Los Angeles, CA
  • Years Active: 1960s, 1970s, 1980s


Biography All Music Guide

All Music Guide:

One of Motown's more underappreciated female vocalists, Syreeta is best known for her association with Stevie Wonder during his creative peak in the '70s. Born Rita Wright in Pittsburgh, Syreeta was raised mostly in Detroit, and started out at Motown as a secretary who did session vocals on the side -- much like Martha Reeves. As Rita Wright, she recorded her debut single, the Ashford & Simpson composition "I Can't Give Back the Love I Feel for You," in 1967. She met Stevie Wonder the following year, and the two eventually became songwriting collaborators; the first fruit borne of their partnership was the 1970 smash "Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I'm Yours)," and she also worked on some of the material for Where I'm Coming From, including the hit "If You Really Love Me." Their relationship turned romantic as well, and the two were married in September 1970; it lasted only a year and a half, partly because Wonder was so committed to music, but the two remained friends. In fact, Wonder assisted on Syreeta's eponymous 1972 debut album, producing and contributing material like the jazzy "Black Maybe." 1974's Stevie Wonder Presents Syreeta was the high point of her career, featuring R&B-chart hits like "Spinnin' and Spinnin'" and "Your Kiss Is Sweet." Another collaboration, the single "Harmour Love," became a hit in 1975, but the release of accompanying album One to One was delayed until 1977, the same year an album of duets with G.C. Cameron, Rich Love, Poor Love, appeared.

In spite of a lack of promotional support from the label, Syreeta managed to score her first major pop hit in 1979, when she teamed up with Billy Preston on the duet "With You I'm Born Again." Suddenly interested again, Motown re-signed her and released two more LPs, 1980's Syreeta and 1981's Set My Love in Motion, plus a full-length duet album, Billy Preston & Syreeta. None managed to recapture the commercial success of "With You I'm Born Again," and after 1983's Jermaine Jackson-produced The Spell, Syreeta retired from music to raise the family she'd started with her husband, bassist Curtis Robertson Jr. In the late '80s, Britain's revivalist Northern soul scene rediscovered Wright's earlier recordings, and she spent a great deal of time performing in the U.K., recording a few singles for producer Ian Levine's Motorcity label. She also performed in a mid-'90s touring production of Jesus Christ Superstar. Syreeta passed away in July of 2004 after a long battle with cancer. She was 58.