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Mable John, First Female Solo Artist Signed by Motown, Dies at 91

The singer passed away at her L.A. home Thursday, this according to her nephew, Kevin John … who spoke to The Detroit News. He said, “We loved her and she was a kind person.” A cause of death wasn’t offered.

In addition to being the first solo female artist signed to Motown (then Tamla), Mable John also recorded hit songs for Stax Records and she was a singer in Ray Charles’ Raelettes backing band.

Berry Gordy signed MJ to his new label — then known as Tamla Records — in 1958. She was the first woman under his brand to get her own record deal without a group attached. Other acts that were signed early included Smokey Robinson (and the Miracles), Eddie Holland and Mary Wells.

John eventually left the music business and became a minister, founding Los Angeles’ Joy Community Outreach, which assists with feeding and clothing the homeless. She made her onscreen debut as a veteran blues singer in John Sayles’ 2007 film Honeydripper, and was featured in the Oscar-winning documentary 20 Feet From Stardom.

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