Singer/songwriter Syreeta Wright, best known for her duet with Billy Preston on “With You I’m Born Again” and as the former wife of Stevie Wonder, died Monday after a long struggle with cancer. She was 58.
Wright recorded six albums for Motown, the most notable being the first two, which were produced by Wonder.
Born Rita Wright in Pittsburgh, Syreeta was working in the ’60s as a Motown secretary when she was enlisted as a backup singer. Founder Berry Gordy later signed her to the label and she recorded a Brian Holland/Ashford & Simpson tune initially meant for Diana Ross, “I Can’t Give Back the Love I Feel for You.”
Wright married Wonder in 1970. Although the union lasted only two years, their professional collaboration as songwriters spawned a series of hits, including “If You Really Love Me,” “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours” and the Spinners’ “It’s a Shame.”
She released her first Wonder-produced Motown album, the critically acclaimed “Syreeta,” under the MoWest imprint in 1972. “Stevie Wonder Presents Syreeta,” which musically depicted their relationship from love/marriage to divorce/enduring friendship, was released in 1974. The titles peaked at No. 185 and No. 116, respectively, on Billboard’s album chart.
Her best showing on the chart came with 1980’s simply titled “Syreeta,” released on Motown’s Tamla imprint, which reached No. 73. The duet with Preston, “With You I’m Born Again,” originally appeared on that year’s soundtrack to the Paramount movie “Fast Break.” The track reached No. 4 on Billboard’s Hot 100 singles chart in 1980.
Wright, who recorded her last studio album, “The Spell,” in 1983, boasted a resume that includes work with Quincy Jones, Ray Charles, Leon Ware and Donald Byrd, among others.
Further details regarding Wright’s death or funeral arrangements were not immediately available.