Demps was no mere fan visiting what's now the Motown
Historical Museum. She was one of the women singing the
angelic, high harmonies on the recording—and hearing it in
Hitsville USA's Studio A was too much.
``It's my heart, it's my heart,'' she said.
For Demps and her fellow Andantes, Jackie Hicks and
Marlene Barrow-Tate, moments like these have been private,
since the wider world knew only their voices, not their faces.
But now in their 70s, the unsung backing group who sang on
thousands of Motown songs is finally getting acclaim for its
contributions to the groundbreaking, chart-topping music made in
Detroit in the 1960s and early `70s before the label moved to
The trio gathered recently to see the exhibit, ``Motown Girl
Groups: The Grit, the Glamour, the Glory,'' which will run
through the summer. The Andantes are featured—with equal
billing—alongside the Supremes, Vandellas, Marvelettes,
The joyous but rare reunion was made possible by a sad event the
day before: the funeral of former Miracles member Bobby
Rogers. For the Andantes, it made their meeting more
``It is unfortunate that so many are gone and thank God that we
are still here—all of us—to be able to see this and see our
dream come true,'' said Barrow-Tate, who still lives in Detroit,
as does Hicks. The two are retired, but Demps, who lives near
Atlanta, still sings solo or with others.
The Andantes were the go-to backup singers for most Motown
artists, including Gaye, Stevie Wonder, The Four Tops and the
girl groups themselves. ``Save the Children'' came from Gaye's
``What's Going On,'' one of Motown's greatest—and last—albums
recorded in Detroit. The Andantes sang backup on many of the
record's cuts—including the title track—and even traveled with
Gaye to his hometown of Washington, D.C., in 1972 to perform the
disc in its entirety at the Kennedy Center.
Motown Museum officials say the trio, almost always anonymously,
sang on more songs than any other group at Motown. They were the
female and vocal equivalent to the Funk Brothers, the label's
house band that itself was largely anonymous in its time but
gained acclaim through the 2002 documentary film, ``Standing in
the Shadows of Motown.''
The Andantes' peerless ability to vocally blend—not only with
each other but also with stars such as Gaye, The Four Tops,
Smokey Robinson, and the Miracles and many others—was
one of the factors that kept them in demand behind the scenes.
They were so successful that they were seen as essential backup
artists, and that limited them from growing more.
The Andantes don't exactly sing the same old song now when it
comes to how they felt about standing and singing in the
``We did not mind not having our name on someone else's
record,'' Hicks said.
``I did,'' said Demps, who had dreamed the Andantes might one
day be like the Supremes. ``I always minded.''
``Well, I didn't,'' said Hicks, who was seconded by Barrow-Tate.
the museum's acting chief executive, said Motown Records founder
Berry Gordy understood the role everyone played in creating and
maintaining Motown's sound.
``The Andantes ... were so instrumental to the foundation of the
Motown sound,'' Rawls said. ``Imagine if a song like `Standing
in the Shadows of Love' was out there (without them). The
harmonies behind it may not be the same thing. That's why they
were established in that particular role, helping to create the
Gordy called the Andantes ``wonderful people'' in a recent
interview and fondly remembered their contributions: ``I recall
so many of the sounds from The Four Tops.''
So does Abdul ``Duke'' Fakir, the group's lone surviving
original member. He recalls the trio's work on ``Baby I Need
Your Loving,'' The Four Tops' first hit.
``They were just as important in their background (part) as
The Four Tops,'' he said. ``Their voices on that song made
The Andantes lovingly recall their work with The Four Tops and
Gaye, who was fatally shot by his father in 1984 after a violent
argument. Demps said the Tops ``always gave us a bonus of every
hit they had'' and ``were always fair.'' They all spoke of
Gaye's intensity, with Hicks in particular recalling the
sessions for ``I Heard it Through the Grapevine.''
``I loved Marvin, loved recording with Marvin,'' she said. ``He
was a perfectionist, and we enjoyed that with him. Everything
just had to be just right for Marvin, and for that we are
As a tour group gathered in Motown's original Studio A, a guide
led them in a spirited take of The Temptations' ``My Girl.''
Sitting alongside were the Andantes, smiling and singing every
word. It's the closest the ``girls'' get these days to a musical
reunion, though Demps doesn't give up hope.
``My dream hasn't ended yet,'' she said. ``It still goes on for
AP Writer Mike Householder contributed to this report.