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Singer Mary Wells, best known for such exhilarating '60s Motown hits as ``My Guy' and ``The One Who Really Loves You,' was seething with frustration because she's having trouble getting her point across - once again.

Communicating is difficult for the veteran performer because a recent tracheotomy robbed her - at least temporarily - of her power of speech.The operation was done last month, when doctors determined that Wells, who had been having throat discomfort for months, had cancer - a tumor in her larynx. It is unlikely she will ever sing again professionally.

The 47-year-old singer either writes her thoughts on paper or mouths words, requiring others to read her lips - which is difficult for the inexperienced and woefully frustrating for Wells.

Mouthing her words, Wells, living in a downtown Los Angeles hotel, said Monday, ``I can't get used to this. You can't imagine how hard this is for me.'

Thanks to such striking hits as ``My Guy' and ``You Beat Me to the Punch,' Wells was one of Motown's key early stars.

Along with the Temptations, the Supremes, the Miracles and the Marvelettes, the Detroit native helped define the label's pop-R&B sound. After her heyday, she parlayed those hits into a career mostly on the oldies circuit.

Though far from rich, Wells was living comfortably this year in a three-bedroom Los Angeles townhouse with Curtis Womack, brother of singer-songwriter Bobby Womack and father of her 4-year-old daughter.

But when her throat started to go bad a few months ago, her life fell apart. No longer able to do concerts, Wells found her income drying up. The same with her savings. She and Womack broke up. Last month, while Wells was in the hospital, her landlord evicted her for non-payment of rent, she indicated.

That's not all.

Wells has no health insurance to help pay the mounting medical bills. She alerted her friend Joyce McRae, a trustee of the Rhythm and Blues Foundation in Washington, whose many functions include helping struggling musicians.

``I called everybody in the media I could think of to put the word out that Mary needed financial help,' said McRae, who was with Wells during the interview.

So far there have been contributions from Diana Ross ($15,000), Rod Stewart ($10,000), Bruce Springsteen ($10,000) and the Temptations ($5,000).

The singer started an intensive six-week radiation treatment plan last week at the Kenneth Norris Jr. Cancer Hospital at the University of Southern California. If treatment is successful, she may be able to avoid having her larynx removed.

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