Georgeanna Tillman, a backing singer and founding member of the Motown girl group the Marvelettes, contributed to many Marvelettes essentials, including their 1961 classic "Please Mr. Postman." As her illnesses became severe, Tillman retired from touring and subsequently had to leave the group as well. She passed away from complications of sickle cell anaemia and lupus on January 6, 1980 at the age of 36.
The first Motown act to score a Number One pop single on the pop chart, the girl group began with founding member Gladys Horton's recruitment of her high school friends and fellow glee club members. At the young age of 15, the girls humorously called themselves the "Casinyets" at the start of their career, a clever play-on-words for "can't sing yet." But even the disclaimer title couldn't disguise the raw talent of the girls, as their performance during a 1961 talent show led to an audition with none other than Motown founder Berry Gordy and the legendary producer/songwriter Smokey Robinson
Katherine Anderson (now Schaffner) recounted the formation of the quintet, crediting Gladys as she shared, "We only started singing together because Gladys asked us. Usually we'd go to Georgeanna's house and play canasta."
Tillman sang lead on many of the group’s other early 1960s hits, including “Beechwood 4-5789" and “Playboy." The Marvelette's winning streak throughout the early 60's helped Motown grow into a major record label while setting a precedent for other girl groups to follow.
To celebrate the life and legacy of the Marvelette's Georgeanna Tillman – we're putting the spotlight on five tracks from her unforgettable contributions with the Marvelettes. What is your favorite Marvelette classic?
4. "Too Many Fish in the Sea"
3. "Beechwood 4-5789"
2. "Don't Mess with Bill"
1. "Please Mr. Postman"
BONUS TRACK: The Beatles - "Please Mr. Postman"