on this day

September 14, 1970 Stevie Wonder married singer Rita “Syreeta” Wright

SEPTEMBER 14, 1970 – 20 year-old singer/songwriter/musician Stevie Wonder married 24 year-old singer Rita “Syreeta” Wright (August 3, 1946 – July 6, 2004). Wright met label-mate Wonder in 1968, and the two began dating the following year. On the advice of Wonder, Wright became a songwriter. Their first collaboration, “It’s a Shame,” was recorded by The Spinners, in 1969. Motown withheld its release until July 1970. The song reached #14 on the Billboard Hot 100. Wright also began singing background for Wonder, most notably on the hit “Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I’m Yours)” which Wright co-wrote with Wonder. In September 1970, after a year-long courtship, Wright, 24, and Wonder, 20, married in Detroit.

September 14, 1970  Stevie Wonder married  singer Rita “Syreeta” Wright

The couple then wrote and arranged songs for Wonder’s “Where I’m Coming From,” which was released much to Berry Gordy’s chagrin in the spring of 1971. The Wonder–Wright composition “If You Really Love Me” (which also featured Wright prominently singing background vocals) reached # 8 in the US that year. In 1971, following Wonder’s exit from Motown, the couple relocated to New York where Wonder worked on two independent albums.Wonder returned to Motown in 1972 after being promised creative control for his recordings, allowing Wonder to set up a company called Black Bull Productions. Wonder and Wright came with songs for Wonder’s next album “Music of My Mind.” Following a tour opening for The Rolling Stones in the summer of 1972, Wonder issued his follow-up “Talking Book” which turned out to be his breakthrough album. In between the albums, Wright decided to return to her own singing career. Motown reassigned the singer from Motown’s Gordy imprint, where “I Can’t Give Back the Love I Feel for You” was released, to Motown’s LA-based MoWest subsidiary.

Wonder and Wright had marriage troubles and divorced in the summer of 1972, ending their 18-month marriage. Following their divorce, Wonder oversaw the production of Wright’s first solo album “Syreeta,” which included Wright’s take of Wonder’s “I Love Every Little Thing About You” from Music of My Mind, the Smokey Robinson classic “What Love Has Joined Together,” and The Beatles’ “She’s Leaving Home” which featured both Wonder and Wright applying background vocals via the talk box. MoWest issued “I Love Every Little Thing About You” in the late winter of 1972, but it failed to chart. Material from Syreeta and Wonder’s “Talking Book” were deemed autobiographical by some critics due to the rise and fall of the ex-couple’s marriage.

Remaining best friends, Wright would continue to provide background vocals and compositions with Wonder for the next two decades.Wright briefly lived in Ethiopia in the mid-1970s where she worked as a Transcendental Meditation teacher. She eventually settled in Los Angeles where she lived for the rest of her life. Wright later married bassist Curtis Robertson Jr. in 1975 with whom she had two children, Jamal Robertson (b. 1976) and Hodari Robertson (b. 1979). Wright and Robertson later divorced in 1982.Born and raised a Baptist, she converted to Islam following her third marriage and had two children: Harmoni and Takiyah Muhammad. Wright died in 2004 of congestive heart failure, a side effect of chemotherapy and radiation treatments she was receiving for breast and bone cancer. She was buried in Inglewood Park Cemetery.

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