Who was Georgeanna Tillman?
Georgeanna Tillman was a founding member of the Marvelettes, one of the first and most successful girl groups of Motown Records. She was born on February 6, 1943, in Inkster, Michigan, and joined the glee club at Inkster High School, where she met Gladys Horton, Katherine Anderson, Juanita Cowart, and Georgia Dobbins. Together, they formed a singing group called the Casinyets (short for “can’t sing yet”) and auditioned for Motown in 1961. They impressed the label’s founder, Berry Gordy, with their original song, “Please Mr. Postman”, which Dobbins co-wrote with a local musician, William Garrett.
Tillman sang background vocals and occasionally played the tambourine for the group, which changed its name to the Marvelettes. She also contributed to the writing of some of their songs, such as “Twistin’ Postman” and “Playboy”. The Marvelettes had a string of hits in the early 1960s, including “Beechwood 4-5789”, “Too Many Fish in the Sea”, and “Don’t Mess with Bill”. They were known for their harmonies, their energetic performances, and their stylish outfits. Tillman was the tallest and the most glamorous of the group, often wearing wigs and false eyelashes. She was also the most outgoing and friendly, and had a good sense of humor.
How did Georgeanna Tillman die?
Unfortunately, Tillman’s life and career were cut short by a series of health problems. She had been suffering from sickle cell anemia since childhood, a genetic blood disorder that causes pain, fatigue, and organ damage. She also developed lupus, an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation and tissue damage. By the end of 1964, she began to show symptoms of her illnesses, such as weight loss, hair loss, and joint pain. She struggled to keep up with the group’s demanding schedule of recording and touring, and often had to rest or receive medical treatment.
Tillman moved back to her mother’s house in Inkster, where she remained until her death. She married Billy Gordon in 1968, but they divorced shortly after. She kept in touch with her former group members and occasionally visited them at their shows. She also attended some Motown reunions and events, and was honored with the Pioneer Award from the Rhythm and Blues Foundation in 1998. She died on January 6, 1980, at the age of 36, from complications of lupus and sickle cell anemia.
How did the music world react to Georgeanna Tillman’s death?
Georgeanna Tillman’s death was a sad loss for the music world, especially for the Motown family and the fans of the Marvelettes. Many people expressed their condolences and tributes to her, and remembered her for her talent, her beauty, and her personality. Her former group members, Gladys Horton, Katherine Anderson, and Wanda Young, were devastated by her passing, and dedicated their performances to her memory.
The Marvelettes were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2004, and into the Rhythm and Blues Music Hall of Fame in 2013. Their songs have been covered by many artists, such as the Beatles, the Carpenters, and the Supremes. Their legacy as one of the first and most influential girl groups of Motown and of pop music remains intact.