GORMAN (1939 - 2006)
Freddie Gorman of the Originals - the group often described as
Motown's best kept secret - has died aged 67. He also issued several
solo singles showcasing his deep, mellow voice, and co-wrote many
songs, including 'Please Mr Postman'.
For such a simple, catchy song, 'Please Mr Postman' had a complicated
genesis. The Marvelettes' 1961 US chart-topper helped establish
Berry Gordy Jr's Motown operation and was covered by the Beatles
and the Carpenters, who took it back to #1 in the United States
in 1975, but the part played by Freddie Gorman in creating the song
was only acknowledged in 1987, on the CD release of 'With The Beatles'.
Gorman didn't bear his co-authors any malice. 'Please Mr Postman'
was originally credited to Georgia Dobbins, a founder member of
the Marvelettes, songwriter William Garrett and the emerging production
partnership of Brian Holland and Robert Bateman - "Brianbert"
on the original Tamla 45. Over the years, it has been attributed
solely to Brian Holland (on the original sleeve of 'With The Beatles'),
with Berry Gordy occasionally joining Holland and Robert Bateman
too. Gorman's copyright claims always seemed strong, since he worked
as a postman himself and drew on his experiences to help with the
lyrics in 1960. "I ran into Brian Holland who was working on
a tune one day that Georgia Dobbins had suggested a title for,"
he told Steve Towne of Goldmine magazine in 1981. "She'd come
up with the title 'Please Mr Postman' so, with me working at the
post office, it was very easy for me to write the lyrics. I just
used things that happened to me carrying mail. Brian and I started
writing for the Marvelettes with 'Please Mr Postman' and right after
that Lamont Dozier joined us."
In the early '60s, that combination of Holland, Dozier and Gorman
wrote more hits for the Marvelettes ('Twistin' Postman' and 'Playboy'
with Robert Bateman as well as 'Someday, Someway' and 'Strange I
Know'), Mary Wells ('Old Love') and the Supremes ('I Want A Guy'),
but Gorman was eventually edged out in favour of Brian Holland's
brother Eddie. "I was still working at the post office and
we never had a contract or anything linking us together," said
Gorman. "It was more or less a handshake, that kind of thing.
In the beginning, Motown was a really big family thing. Everyone
worked together, but it changed when it got to be big business."
Born in Detroit in 1939, Gorman sang on street corners from his
early teens. While in high school, he joined Sax Kari and the Quailtones,
and co-wrote 'Tears Of Love', their only single, in 1955. He formed
the Fidelitones with Brian Holland and met the young Berry Gordy
on one of his mail rounds in 1957. Gorman released a solo 45, 'The
Day Will Come' on Miracle, a Motown subsidiary, in 1961, but subsequently
moved to the rival Detroit label Ric-Tic to cut 'In A Bad Way' and
'Just Can't Get It Out Of My Mind' and co-write '(Just Like) Romeo
And Juliet', a hit for the Reflections in 1964.
Gordy eventually bought out Ric-Tic and, in 1966, Gorman (bass
vocals) joined forces with C.P. Spencer (lead tenor), Hank Dixon
(second tenor), Walter Gaines (baritone) and Joe Stubbs, brother
of the Four Tops lead vocalist Levi, on a cover of the Leadbelly
song 'Goodnight Irene'. Stubbs dropped out after the Originals'
first single, but they soldiered on, singing backing vocals for
other Motown acts such as Jimmy Ruffin, David Ruffin, Stevie Wonder,
Diana Ross and the Supremes - "We even doubled as females,"
Gorman admitted - and issued the singles 'We've Got A Way Out Of
Love' and 'Green Grow The Lilacs' in 1969.
They also teamed up with Marvin Gaye on 'Chained' and a friendship
developed. "Marvin had been in the Moonglows," Gorman
recalled. "He liked our sound for a long time and thought he
could do something with us. He wrote 'Baby I'm For Real' with his
wife, Anna. The unique thing about the song is that all four of
us took some parts of the lead. A lot of people told me they thought
it was one person but I never understood how they heard it that
way." The soulful ballad topped the R&B charts at the end
of 1969 and then crossed over into the pop charts, selling over
a million copies in the US alone. 'The Bells', their gorgeous follow-up,
again co-written by Gaye, reached #12 the following year but 'We
Can Make It Baby' and 'God Bless Whoever Sent You' struggled to
reach the Top 50. In 1972, Spencer left for a solo career and was
replaced by Ty Hunter, who had worked with the group in the early
days. Two years later, they recorded 'California Sunset' in Los
Angeles with Lamont Dozier but left Motown in 1977 after the album
'Down To Love Town'.
In 1981, the Originals cut their own version of 'Please Mr Postman'
on the album 'Yesterday And Today'. They also worked with the British
producer Ian Levine and made their UK live début in 2002.
Perrone, The Independent)