California native Brenda Holloway has always had a passion for music. From singing in her church’s choir to studying the violin, music has always been the center of her life. When Brenda Holloway began her professional career, she joined California-based label Donna (a sister label to Del-Fi) and released a slew of singles, including her first major hit “Every Little Bit Hurts” (which was later re-released). Through her producer Hal Davis, she met Berry Gordy and secured an audition at Motown Records. Taken by her voice and her style, he offered her a recording contract, on the condition that she graduate from high school first. She graduated a year later and signed to Motown in 1964 when she was 17. Quickly, Motown released her first album Every Little Bit Hurts in 1964, with the titular song being her first big hit reaching #23 on the US pop charts and #3 on US R&B. Her career went into overdrive—everyone wanted Brenda Holloway.
A year later, she was invited by Dick Clark to be on his “Caravan of Stars” tour; then, she became the first Motown artist to appear on the musical variety show Shebang!; that same year, when the Beatles invaded the U.S., she was invited to open for them. During all of this, she continued to release more hit songs including “When I’m Gone” (1965), “Operator” (1965), and “You Make Me So Very Happy” (1967), with her second album, The Artistry of Brenda Holloway, being released in 1968 to equal acclaim. In just five years, her career exploded, and she became an international star.
However, in 1969, Brenda made the decision to leave Motown, retire from the music industry for a short time, and return to her home in California. As a religious person, she felt a calling to focus on her faith and connect with people through gospel music instead. While she would later come out of retirement from performing, her career would continue to be driven by her Motown years and the impressive success she found in just five years.
Brenda Holloway performing ‘When I’m Gone” in 1967 on the Shebang! show. She was the first Motown artist to make a live appearance.
Brenda Holloway’s first appearance on American Bandstand in 1964, performing “I’ll Always Love You”
Brenda Holloway performing “Every Little Bit Hurts”
When Brenda Holloway went on tour for the first time, the then-struggling Supremes were her opening act.