Song:With You I'm Born Again
Album:The Essential Syreeta
Of course most should be familiar with Billy Preston's 70s hits like Nothing From Nothing. In 1979, Preston moved from A & M to Motown and With You I'm Born Again was a top five hit in 1979. It would turn out to be the biggest hit for Syreeta Wright who had been with Motown for over a decade. She was born Aug. 3, 1946 in Pittsburgh. Her dad died in the Korean War and mom moved the family to Detroit. Syreeta took a job as a receptionist at Motown in 1965 in the hope it would lead to a singing career. It worked for Martha Reeves. Eddie Holland heard Syreeta sing and started using her on demos. She released a 1968 single as Rita Wright. But mostly she was a backup singer. When Diana Ross left The Supremes, Berry Gordy wanted Syreeta to replace her. Mary Wilson said no and they hired Jean Terrell. Then Syreeta met Stevie Wonder and they started dating. He encouraged her to write songs and she co-wrote Signed, Sealed, Delivered with Wonder. They were married in 1970. When Wonder returned to Motown in 1972, he got something that Berry Gordy vowed Wonder would never get, complete creative control. He used that to produce the 1972 album Syreeta. And though Syreeta's first couple of albums were excellent, they didn't sell. Motown tried other things with Syreeta including the 1977 album with GC Cameron Rich Love, Poor Love. By the time Billy Preston arrived at Motown in 1979, Syreeta was on her way out. Songwriter Carol Conners approached Preston about a song she had written with film composer David Shire for the 1979 basketball comedy Fast Break starring Gabe Kaplan of Welcome Back, Kotter. It was With You I'm Born Again. Preston thought Syreeta would make a great duet partner. The song was much bigger than the movie. It reached #4 on the Billboard Hot 100. It appeared on Preston's 1979 album Late At Night. And it got Syreeta a contract renewal from Motown. The two recorded a 1981 album together called Billy Preston & Syreeta. But by the mid-80s, Syreeta left Motown and moved to Los Angeles. She recorded a couple of albums including a 1995 gospel album. She also continued to work with Wonder until the mid-90s when Syreeta quit the music business and converted to Islam. She died on July 6, 2004 at age 57 after fighting cancer for several years. Check out this comp CD for more of Syreeta's music. Here's Billy Preston and Syreeta performing With You i'm Born Again.