The Marvelettes

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The Marvelettes
The Marvelettes 1963.jpg
The Marvelettes in a 1963 promotional photo. Clockwise from top left: Gladys Horton, Katherine Anderson, Georgeanna Tillman, and Wanda Young
Background information
Also known asThe Casinyets, The Marvels, The Darnells
Origin Inkster, Michigan, U.S.
Genres R&B, rock and roll, doo-wop, pop, soul
Years active1960–1970
Labels Tamla, Motown
Past members Gladys Horton (deceased)
Katherine Anderson
Georgeanna Tillman (deceased)
Wanda Rogers
Ann Bogan
Juanita Cowart
Georgia Dobbins, writer of Please Mr. Postman

The Marvelettes was an American girl group that achieved popularity in the early- to mid-1960s. They consisted of schoolmates Gladys Horton, Katherine Anderson (now Schaffner), Georgeanna Tillman (later Gordon), Juanita Cowart (now Cowart Motley), and Georgia Dobbins, who was replaced by Wanda Young (now Rogers) prior to the group signing their first deal. They were the first major successful act of Motown Records after the Miracles and its first significantly successful girl group after the release of the 1961 number-one single, "Please Mr. Postman", one of the first number-one singles recorded by an all-female vocal group and the first by a Motown recording act.

A girl group is a music act featuring several female singers who generally harmonize together. The term "girl group" is also used in a narrower sense in the United States to denote the wave of American female pop music singing groups, many of whom were influenced by doo-wop and which flourished in the late 1950s and early 1960s between the decline of early rock and roll and start of the British Invasion. All-female bands, in which members also play instruments, are usually considered a separate phenomenon. These groups are sometimes called "girl bands" to differentiate, although this terminology is not universally followed.

Gladys Horton American singer

Gladys Catherine Horton was an American R&B and pop singer, famous for being the founder and lead singer of the popular Motown all-female vocal group The Marvelettes.

Katherine Anderson American singer

Katherine Elaine Anderson Schaffner is an American singer, famed for her tenure in the Motown all-female singing group the Marvelettes. Though not known for any lead spots acquired by Gladys Horton, Wanda Young, or Ann Bogan, Schaffner's role was as notable as she was the only member to survive the group's several incarnations that occurred during the 1960s until breaking up in 1970.


Founded in 1960 while the group's founding members performed together at their glee club at Inkster High School in Inkster, Michigan, they signed to Motown's Tamla label in 1961. Some of the group's early hits were written by band members and some of Motown's rising singer-songwriters such as Smokey Robinson and Marvin Gaye, who played drums on a majority of their early recordings. Despite their early successes, the group was eclipsed in popularity by groups like the Supremes, with whom they shared an intense rivalry.

Inkster High School

Inkster High School was a high school in Inkster, Michigan in Metro Detroit. It was a part of Inkster Public Schools.

Inkster, Michigan City in Michigan

Inkster is a city in Wayne County in the U.S. state of Michigan. At the 2010 census, the city population was 25,369.

Smokey Robinson American R&B singer-songwriter and record producer

William "Smokey" Robinson Jr. is an American singer, songwriter, record producer, and former record executive. Robinson was the founder and frontman of the Motown vocal group the Miracles, for which he was also chief songwriter and producer. Robinson led the group from its 1955 origins as "the Five Chimes" until 1972 when he announced a retirement from the group to focus on his role as Motown's vice president.

Nevertheless, they managed a major comeback in 1966 with "Don't Mess with Bill", along with several other hits. They struggled with problems of poor promotion from Motown, health issues and substance abuse with Cowart the first to leave in 1963, followed by Georgeanna Tillman in 1965, and Gladys Horton in 1967. The group ceased performing together in 1969 and, following the release of The Return of the Marvelettes in 1970, featuring only Wanda Rogers, disbanded for good, with both Rogers and Katherine Anderson leaving the music business.

"Don't Mess with Bill" is a million-selling Gold-certified 1966 single recorded by The Marvelettes for Motown Records' Tamla label. Written and produced by Smokey Robinson, "Don't Mess with Bill" features a lead vocal by Wanda Young. The single peaked at number seven on the Billboard Hot 100 in February 1966, and at number three on Billboard's R&B singles chart. "Don't Mess with Bill" was the Marvelettes' final Top 10 single.

The group has received several honors including induction into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame, as well as receiving the Pioneer Award from the Rhythm and Blues Foundation. In 2005, two of the group's most successful recordings, "Please Mr. Postman" and "Don't Mess with Bill" earned million-selling Gold singles from the RIAA. On August 17, 2013, in Cleveland, Ohio, at Cleveland State University, the Marvelettes were inducted into the 1st class of the Official Rhythm & Blues Music Hall of Fame.

The Vocal Group Hall of Fame (VGHF) was organized by Tony Butala, also the founder of the Lettermen, to honor outstanding vocal groups throughout the world. Headquartered in Sharon, Pennsylvania, United States, it includes a theater and a museum.

Please Mr. Postman original song written and composed by Robert Bateman, Freddie Gorman, Brian Holland

"Please Mr. Postman" is a song written by Georgia Dobbins, William Garrett, Freddie Gorman, Brian Holland, and Robert Bateman. It is the debut single by the Marvelettes for the Tamla (Motown) label, notable as the first Motown song to reach the number-one position on the Billboard Hot 100 pop singles chart. The single achieved this position in late 1961; it hit number one on the R&B chart as well. "Please Mr. Postman" became a number-one hit again in early 1975 when the Carpenters' cover of the song reached the top position of the Billboard Hot 100. "Please Mr. Postman" has been covered several times, including by the British rock group The Beatles in 1963.

Recording Industry Association of America Trade organization representing the recording industry in the U.S.

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is a trade organization that represents the recording industry in the United States. Its members consist of record labels and distributors, which the RIAA says "create, manufacture and/or distribute approximately 85% of all legally sold recorded music in the United States." The RIAA headquarters is in Washington, D.C.


Origins and initial success

The group that would become the Marvelettes formed at Inkster High School in Inkster, Michigan, a suburb located west of Detroit, Michigan by fifteen-year-old glee club member Gladys Horton in the fall of 1960. Horton enlisted older glee club members Katherine Anderson, Georgeanna Tillman, Juanita Cowart, and Georgia Dobbins (already a high school graduate) to join her. [1] The members struggled to come up with a name for their new act until one of the members jokingly took a stab at their own singing abilities, saying "we can't sing yet." Horton altered the saying to "The Casinyets".

Detroit Largest city in Michigan

Detroit is the largest and most populous city in the U.S. state of Michigan, the largest American city on the United States–Canada border, and the seat of Wayne County. The municipality of Detroit had a 2017 estimated population of 673,104, making it the 23rd-most populous city in the United States. The metropolitan area, known as Metro Detroit, is home to 4.3 million people, making it the second-largest in the Midwest after the Chicago metropolitan area. Regarded as a major cultural center, Detroit is known for its contributions to music and as a repository for art, architecture and design.

Georgeanna Tillman American singer

Georgeanna Marie Tillman was an American singer and an original member of the Motown girl group The Marvelettes.

In 1961, the quintet, now called the Marvels, entered a talent show contest on the behest of their teacher and ended up finishing in fourth place. Though only the first three winners were offered a trip to audition for the fledgling Motown label, two of the girls' schoolteachers advised that they be allowed to audition too. Upon auditioning for Motown executives including Brian Holland and Robert Bateman, they had a second audition with bigger staff including Smokey Robinson and the label president and founder, Berry Gordy, who while impressed with their vocal styles advised them to come back with their own composition. Returning to Inkster, Georgia Dobbins contacted a local musician named William Garrett, who had an unfinished blues composition titled "Please Mr. Postman"; Garrett allowed Dobbins to use it as long as he received songwriting credit if the song became a hit. Despite having no previous songwriting experience, Dobbins took the song home and reshaped it overnight to reflect the teenage sound of doo-wop. [2]

Brian Holland is an American songwriter and record producer, best known as a member of Holland–Dozier–Holland, the songwriting and production team that was responsible for much of the Motown sound and numerous hit records by artists such as Martha and the Vandellas, The Supremes, The Four Tops, and The Isley Brothers. Holland, along with Lamont Dozier, served as the team's musical arranger and producer. He has written or co-written 145 hits in US and 78 in the UK.

Robert Bateman was an American R&B singer, songwriter and record producer. Among other songs, he co-wrote the hits "Please Mr. Postman" and "If You Need Me".

Berry Gordy American record producer, songwriter and founder of Motown record label

Berry Gordy III is an American record executive, record producer, songwriter, film producer and television producer. He is best known as the founder of the Motown record label and its subsidiaries, which was the highest-earning African-American business for decades.

Prior to returning to Motown, Dobbins left the group due to her growing family and her father, who advised her not to continue her career in show business. Dobbins' departure left Horton in full charge of the group. To replace her, Horton asked another Inkster graduate, Wanda Young, to replace Dobbins. When the group returned and performed their composition, Gordy agreed to work with the group but under the advice that they change their name. Gordy renamed them The Marvelettes and signed the act to Motown's Tamla division in July 1961. The following month, the group recorded "Please Mr. Postman", which was polished by Brian Holland, Robert Bateman and Freddie Gorman, another songwriting partner of Holland (before Holland became part of the Holland–Dozier–Holland team), who moonlighted as a mailman, as well as the song "So Long Baby", sung by Wanda. Tamla issued "Please Mr. Postman" on August 21, 1961. [3] The song then climbed to the top of the singles chart, reaching #1 that December. making them the first Motown act to have a #1 hit on the Hot 100.

To follow up on this success, Motown had the group record "Twistin' Postman" to take advantage of the twist dance craze and the re-release of Chubby Checker's "The Twist". The song eventually peaked at #34 on the pop chart in early 1962. Before the end of 1961, Tamla issued the first Marvelettes album, also named Please Mr. Postman , but it failed to chart. The group's next single, "Playboy", marked the second time one of their singles was written by a band member, this time by Gladys Horton. Like "Postman", the song was retooled by other writers and upon its release in early 1962, reached #7. A fourth hit, "Beechwood 4-5789", co-written by Marvin Gaye, reached #17. During 1962, two more albums would be issued by the band including Smash Hits of '62 (later issued as The Marvelettes Sing) and Playboy . Following the success of "Beechwood", R&B radio stations also frequently played the single's flip side, "Someday, Someway", which paid off sending the song to #8 on the R&B chart---their first double-sided hit.

Due to their success, the group had to leave school in order to perform and despite the promise of tutors to help with their schooling, they were never granted any. Due to their young ages and Horton being an orphaned ward of the courts, they eventually were taken in by Esther Gordy Edwards, who bused them to Motortown Revue shows. After several successful Top 40 recordings, the group released the modest success, "Strange I Know", which peaked at #49. In early 1963, the group was shortened to a quartet when Juanita Cowart opted to leave the band citing a mental breakdown---caused by stress from performing on the road and a mistake she made in describing the group's background during an appearance on American Bandstand . Carrying on as a quartet, the group issued one of Holland–Dozier–Holland's early compositions, "Locking Up My Heart", which peaked at #44. It was one of the first singles to feature Horton and Young in co-leads. The success of "Locking" was probably tested due to strong airplay by the song's B-side, the Young-led ballad "Forever", which also received a pop charting, peaking at #78. Then Berry Gordy composed and produced the single, "My Daddy Knows Best", but it was their lowest charting at the time, #67. [4]

The departure of Georgeanna Tillman and renewed success

By 1964, the majority of American vocal groups especially all female bands such as the Shirelles and the Ronettes started struggling with finding a hit after the arrival of British pop and rock acts. In the meantime, other Motown girl groups such as Martha and the Vandellas and the Supremes were starting to get promoted by Motown staff with the Vandellas becoming the top girl group of 1963. The following year, the Supremes took their place as the label's top primary female group after a succession of hit recordings that year, culminating in the release of their second album, Where Did Our Love Go , which Motown was able to promote successfully. 'Where Did Our Love Go' was turned down by the Marvelettes. [5] Gladys recalls "When they played 'Where Did Our Love Go' they played 'Too Many Fish In The Sea'. We picked 'Too Many Fish In The Sea' because it had all the music and all the bongos. We were all together and said at the same time we didn't want 'Where Did Our Love Go'."

That year, the Marvelettes reached the top forty with the Norman Whitfield production, "Too Many Fish in the Sea", reaching #25 with the recording. By now, Motown had begun its charm school hiring choreographer Cholly Atkins and Maxine Powell to refine the label's acts. Atkins began polishing the Marvelettes' dance moves while Powell taught the group to be more graceful. telling them and every other Motown act that they would "perform in front of kings and queens". Meanwhile, two of the Marvelettes got married: Georgeanna Tillman married longtime boyfriend Billy Gordon of the Contours and Wanda Young married her longtime boyfriend Bobby Rogers of the Miracles changing her name to Wanda Rogers. By the end of 1964, Georgeanna Tillman, a longtime sufferer of sickle cell anemia was diagnosed with lupus. By early 1965, struggling to keep up with their stringent recording sessions and touring schedules and her illnesses, a doctor of Tillman's advised her to leave performing for good. The rest of the Marvelettes carried on as a trio from then on.

In mid-1965, Wanda Rogers took over as lead vocalist, as Motown producers felt Rogers' voice was more suitable for this role than Horton's. With Rogers as lead, the group had a hit with "I'll Keep Holding On", which reached #34 while "Danger! Heartbreak Dead Ahead" settled for a #61 showing but was #11 on the R&B chart. Later in 1965, the group released the Smokey Robinson composition, "Don't Mess with Bill", which brought the group back to the top ten reaching #7 and becoming their second single to sell over a million copies. From then on, with Robinson mainly in charge, most of the Marvelettes singles would feature Rogers on lead. In 1966, they had a modest success with "You're the One" and by the end of that year, they reached the top 20 with "The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game", which Smokey had to fight to get released. In 1967, the group recorded the Van McCoy composition, "When You're Young and in Love", which had been originally recorded by Ruby & the Romantics. The song reached #23 in the U.S. and peaked at #13 in the UK, becoming their only British hit.


By 1967, Gladys Horton had reconsidered her involvement with the Marvelettes. After her first child, Sammie, was born with cerebral palsy, Horton decided to leave the group entirely, doing so before the release of the hit "My Baby Must Be a Magician". The song peaked at #17 and was noted for featuring the Temptations' Melvin Franklin providing the opening line. With Horton out, Harvey Fuqua introduced the group to Ann Bogan who became Horton's replacement. However, by the time Bogan joined the group in 1968, most of the musicians of Motown's early years had left, mainly due to financial disputes with the label. The group struggled with recordings after the release of "Magician", with Motown offering little to no promotion. The 1968 singles "Here I Am Baby" and "Destination: Anywhere" were only modestly successful, peaking at #44 and #63 respectively. The release of their 1969 album, In Full Bloom, failed as did its only single, the remake of Justine Washington's "That's How Heartaches Are Made".

Wanda Rogers, who had suffered from a number of personal problems for some time, became unreliable and difficult to work with. Concert scheduling was difficult as she sometimes failed to turn up for performances. In 1970, Rogers recorded songs for a solo album, produced by Smokey Robinson and including covers of earlier Motown recordings, which Motown decided to market as The Return of The Marvelettes . As this album featured no other Marvelettes, original member Katherine Anderson refused to participate in appearing on the cover of the album due to what she felt was Motown's disrespect towards her and the group. The album was only a modest hit, reaching #50 on the R&B album charts and featured no charted hit singles. Following this, the group disbanded with Katherine Anderson settling briefly as a staff writer for Motown. After Motown moved to Los Angeles in 1972, Anderson and Rogers left the business altogether returning to Michigan with Anderson settling in her hometown of Inkster while Rogers moved to Southfield, Michigan. Meanwhile, Gladys Horton had moved to Los Angeles where she raised her three sons.

Later years

In January 1980, former Marvelette and original member Georgeanna Tillman died from complications of lupus, in her mother's house in Inkster, at the age of 36. Shortly afterwards, several of the former members filed suit against Motown, complaining of not receiving any royalties from their work. [6] In 1989, Gladys Horton tried to reunite the original Marvelettes after being offered a contract with Motorcity Records. Wanda Young was the only other Marvelette to agree to sing on the recording. Following this, Horton continued to perform, sometimes as "Gladys Horton of the Marvelettes". Due to a legal disagreement with Larry Marshak, who bought the Marvelettes' name from Motown after the label lost rights to the name, Horton would fight for years to retain ownership of the name. [7] Marshak had several groups billing themselves as "The Marvelettes", but the women who portrayed themselves as the Marvelettes were much younger than the original lineup, and had not recorded on any of the Marvelettes' original Motown hits. [8]

By 2006, thanks to the efforts of former Supremes singer Mary Wilson, legislation had been launched in 33 states via The Truth In Music Act to prevent performers from using the name of a group that didn't have at least one original member, causing the groups who Marshak had hired as Marvelettes to bill themselves as "Tribute to the Marvelettes". [9] Both Horton and Katherine Anderson began fighting to get back ownership of the name and were in their final stages of having the name returned to them when Horton died from a stroke at a California nursing home in January 2011. [10] Following their exits from the Marvelettes, both Georgia Dobbins and Juanita Cowart remained in Inkster and settled into life outside the entertainment industry, with Cowart being active in her Inkster church choir. Wanda Rogers now lives with her daughter in Westland, Michigan while Katherine Anderson resides in Inkster and mentors several Detroit-area vocal groups. [6] Ann Bogan, the latter-day member of the group, now lives in Cleveland, Ohio and became a part of the New Birth and their subgroup, Love, Peace & Happiness, before retiring to raise her children. All the surviving members of the group were recently interviewed for an episode of their lives on the TV-One show, Unsung .


In 2005, the group was awarded with two gold plaques for their biggest hits, "Please Mr. Postman" and "Don't Mess with Bill" after the RIAA had certified the singles as million-sellers. The following year, Horton appeared on the PBS concert special, My Music: Salute to Early Motown, along with other Motown stars from the label's early years. Some of the group's recordings were later sampled for songs by rap musicians, most notably Jay-Z's song, "Poppin' Tags", sampled the group's 1970 cover of Smokey Robinson's composition, "After All", from his 2002 album, The Blueprint 2: The Gift & The Curse .

In 1995, they were honored with the "Pioneer Award" at the Rhythm & Blues Foundation. In 2004, the group was inducted to the Vocal Group Hall of Fame. In 2006, Marc Taylor issued the biography, The Original Marvelettes: Motown's Mystery Girl Group. The group's story had been documented several years before in Goldmine magazine from a 1984 article.

In 2007, the Marvelettes were voted into the Michigan Rock and Roll Legends Hall of Fame. [11]

In 2009, as part of Motown's 50th Anniversary celebrations, a new limited-edition triple-CD set on the group entitled The Marvelettes: Forever – The Complete Motown Albums Vol. 1 was released. This featured the group's first six albums, some of which had never been released on CD. The Marvelettes: Forever More – The Complete Motown Albums Vol. 2, which included their later albums and bonus material, was released in 2011.Their much-covered 1961 million-selling # 1 hit tune "Please Mr Postman" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2011. [12]

The Marvelettes were nominated for 2013 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They became eligible for induction in 1987. Although they did not garner enough votes for induction, they made the ballot a second time for induction in the year 2015. [13]

On August 17, 2013 the Marvelettes were inducted into the Rhythm and Blues Music Hall of Fame in Cleveland and again in June 2017 in Detroit, Michigan



YearAlbumPeak chart positions
1961 Please Mr. Postman
1962The Marvelettes Sing (aka Smash Hits of '62)
1963 The Marvelous Marvelettes
The Marvelettes Recorded Live On Stage
1966The Marvelettes Greatest Hits844
1967 The Marvelettes (Pink Album) 12913
1968 Sophisticated Soul 41
1969In Full Bloom
1970 The Return of the Marvelettes 50
1975The Marvelettes Anthology
Best of The Marvelettes
"—" denotes releases that did not chart


YearTitles (A-side, B-side)
Both sides from same album except where indicated
Peak chart positionsAlbum
US Pop US R&B UK [14]
1961"Please Mr. Postman" (Tamla 54046)
b/w "So Long Baby"
11Please Mr. Postman
"Twistin' Postman" (54054)
b/w "I Want a Guy" (from Please Mr. Postman)
3413The Marvelettes Smash Hits Of '62
1962"Playboy" (54060)
b/w "All the Love I've Got" (from Please Mr. Postman)
"Beechwood 4-5789" (54065) /177
"Someday, Someway" (54065)8
"Strange I Know" (54072)
b/w "Too Strong to be Strung Along"
4910The Marvelous Marvelettes
1963"Locking Up My Heart" (54077) /4425
"Forever" (54077)7824Playboy
"My Daddy Knows Best" (54082)
b/w "Tie a String Around Your Finger" (Non-album track)
67The Marvelous Marvelettes
"As Long as I Know He's Mine" (54088)
b/w "Little Girl Blue" (Non-album track)
473*The Marvelettes' Greatest Hits
"Too Hurt to Cry, Too Much in Love to Say Goodbye" (as The Darnells) (Gordy 7024)
b/w "Come on Home"
117Non-album tracks
1964"He's a Good Guy (Yes He Is)" (54091)
b/w "Goddess of Love" (from Playboy)
"You're My Remedy" (54097)
b/w "A Little Bit of Sympathy, A Little Bit of Love" (Non-album track)
4816*The Marvelettes' Greatest Hits
"Too Many Fish in the Sea" (54105)
b/w "A Need for Love" (Non-album track)
1965"I'll Keep Holding On" (54116)
b/w "No Time for Tears" (Non-album track)
"Danger! Heartbreak Dead Ahead" (54120)
b/w "Your Cheating Ways" (Non-album track)
6111The Marvelettes' Greatest Hits
1966"Don't Mess with Bill" (54126)
b/w "Anything You Wanna Do" (Non-album track)
"You're the One" (54131)
b/w "Paper Boy" (Non-album track)
4820Sophisticated Soul
1967"The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game" (54143)
b/w "I Think I Can Change You" (from Playboy)
132The Marvelettes
"When You're Young and in Love" (only UK charting single) (54150)
b/w "The Day You Take One, You Have to Take the Other"
1968"My Baby Must Be a Magician" (Spoken intro by Melvin Franklin) (54158)
b/w "I Need Someone" (from The Marvelettes)
178Sophisticated Soul
"Here I am Baby" (54166)
b/w "Keep Off, No Trespassing" (from The Marvelettes)
"Destination: Anywhere" (54171) /6328
"What's Easy for Two Is So Hard for One" (54171)114
1969"I'm Gonna Hold On as Long as I Can" (54177)
b/w "Don't Make Hurting Me a Habit"
"That's How Heartaches Are Made" (54186)
b/w "Rainy Mourning"
97In Full Bloom
1970"Marionette" (54198)
b/w "After All"
The Return Of The Marvelettes
1972"A Breath-Taking Guy" (54213)
b/w "You're the One for Me Bobby" (from Sophisticated Soul)
"—" denotes releases that did not chart

(*There was no Billboard R&B Singles Chart from November 1963 to January 1965. The R&B chart numbers from that period come from Cash Box magazine, a Billboard competitor at the time.)

Awards and recognition

2013- Inducted into the Rhythm and Blues Hall Of Fame

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<i>Playboy</i> (Marvelettes album) 1962 studio album by The Marvelettes

Playboy is the third album by Motown girl group, The Marvelettes, released to capitalize on their hit singles "Playboy" and "Beechwood 4-5789", in 1962. It also includes the single "Someday, Someway" and "Forever", a heartfelt standard that would be released the following year as the B-side of the single "Locking Up My Heart" and join the A-side on the charts. Other compositions include "Goddess of Love", "Cry Over You", and "Mix It Up". George Gordy, William "Mickey" Stevenson and Marvin Gaye, who had produced "Beechwood 4-5789" all did some work on the Playboy LP as well.

"Locking Up My Heart" is a 1963 single released by Motown girl group The Marvelettes on the Tamla record label.

Freddie Gorman was an American musician and record producer, most famous as a singer, songwriter for the Motown label in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

The Marvelous Marvelettes is the fourth studio album released by the Marvelettes for the Tamla label. It is the first album to not feature original Marvelette, Wyanetta "Juanita" Cowart, who left the group in early 1963. The group would remain a quartet for the next two years. Also featured on the album is Rosalind Ashford of Martha and the Vandellas, who filled in for Marvelette Wanda Young in the studio while the latter was on maternity leave, been replaced by Florence Ballard on live performances. The album features three singles: 'Strange I Know', 'Locking Up My Heart', and 'My Daddy Knows Best'.


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