In 1960, Mary Wells was a teenage nightclub singer hoping to catch her big break. When she scored a meeting with Tamla Records/Motown founder Berry Gordy in Detroit's Twenty Grand club, she got her chance.
Wells had written the song "Bye Bye Baby," and originally intended to pass it along to R&B singer Jackie Wilson, but a weary Gordy wanted to hear the song on the spot (plus he was no longer working closely with Wilson). Impressed with Wells' vocals, he urged her to record it.
If Wells had any illusions about studio work, they were most likely shattered - legend has it she had to run through the song over 20 times before Gordy was satisfied.
Mary Wells is credited as the sole author of this song, but the legendary songstress Johnnie Mae Matthews, known as "The Godmother of Detroit Soul," told a different story about the up-and-coming teen sensation of Motown: "Mary Wells was 14 years old when she came to me. She came with about four lines of "Bye, Bye Baby" and asked me if I would finish it up for her, and I finished it up for her - I wrote that record. I never got any credit for that!"
Michael Jackson's "Liberian Girl" opens with the South African female singer Letta Mbulu saying the Swahili phrase "Naku penda piya-naku taka piya-mpenziwe." There was some geographic liberty here, as Swahili is not spoken in the West African nation of Liberia.