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Reba Jeanette Smith, known professionally as Debbie Dean (February 1, 1928–February 17, 2001) was an American singer who was the first white solo artist to record for Motown Records.

Contents

Biography

Born Reba Jeanette Smith on February 1, 1928 in Corbin, Kentucky. She was the fourth child of Walter B. Smith, a railroad engineer by his wife, Alma, a housewife.[1] Debbie Dean recorded as Penny Smith and Debbie Stevens at various labels before arriving at Motown in the early 1960s, and was Motown's first white female solo recording artist, signed by Berry Gordy.[2]

Unlike most of the early Motown recording artists, she was neither an R&B or blues singer. Her first single at Motown was "Don't Let Him Shop Around," (1961) an answer record to the Miracles #1 R&B and #2 pop hit, "Shop Around." Dean's perky vocals with a noticeable southern twang barely reached Billboard's Hot 100 charts with the song.

Subsequent singles were even less successful and at the age of 34 (significantly older than most Motown acts at the time), she was dropped from the label. Several years later, after a meeting with Motown producer/writer Deke Richards, Dean rejoined the Motown roster as a writer/singer, and collaorated with Richards (aka "Lussier") on songs for the Supremes, Temptations, Smokey Robinson, Martha and the Vandellas, Edwin Starr, and other Motown artists. She later co-wrote and recorded "Why Am I Lovin' You" on Motown's V.I.P. label.

She died on February 17, 2001[3] in Ojai, California.

Selected discography

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Singles

  • "Don't Let Him Shop Around" b/w "A New Girl" (Motown)
  • "Itsy Bity Pity Love" b/w "But I'm Afraid" (Motown)
  • "Everybody's Talkin' About My Baby" b/w "I Cried All Night" (Motown)
  • "Why Am I Lovin' You" b/w "Stay My Love" (V.I.P.)

References


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