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Diana Ross and the Supremes perform their final concert

Diana Ross and the Supremes perform their final concert

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They were the most successful American pop group of the 1960s—a group whose 12 #1 hits in the first full decade of the rock and roll era places them behind only Elvis and the Beatles in terms of chart dominance. They helped define the very sound of the 60s, but like fellow icons the Beatles and Simon and Garfunkel, they came apart in the first year of the 70s. The curtain closed for good on Diana Ross and the Supremes on January 14, 1970, at the Frontier Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The farewell concert in Vegas was the final act in a drawn-out breakup that didn’t become official until November 1969, but probably became inevitable in July 1967, when Motown Records chief Berry Gordy gave Diana Ross top billing over the Supremes. That move clearly signaled Gordy’s intention to launch Diana on a solo career—something he may have had in mind from the moment he upgraded her first name from “Diane” and upstaged her fellow Supremes by making Diana the group’s official lead singer.

Mary Wilson, Florence Ballard and Diane Ross grew up together in Detroit’s Brewster housing project and started out as co-equals in a singing group they called “the Primettes.” It took them several years of toiling within the hit factory Berry Gordy was assembling before the girls made their breakthrough in 1964. Those years included a Gordy-inspired name change for the group; a Gordy-mandated buffing and polishing in Motown’s in-house finishing school; and, eventually, a Gordy-dictated elevation of Diana over her childhood friends, Flo and Mary.

Yet even into early 1964, the group that would become Motown’s greatest commercial success was known as the “No-Hit Supremes” around Hitsville, U.S.A., the company’s Detroit headquarters. It was “Where Did Our Love Go”—a song written by the soon-to-be-legendary team of Holland-Dozier-Holland and rejected by the soon-to-be-eclipsed Marvelettes—that kicked off a run of success that saw the Supremes score an incredible five straight #1 singles in a 10-month span from July 1964 to May 1965. Five more #1s would come before Motown forced Flo Ballard out of the group she created, and two more would come with Cindy Birdsong as Ballard’s replacement before Diana Ross left the Supremes behind

Diana Ross

Diana Ross (born March 26, 1944) is an American singer, songwriter and actress from Detroit. She rose to fame as the lead singer of the vocal group the Supremes, who became Motown's most successful act during the 1960s and one of the world's best-selling girl groups of all time. They remain the best-charting female group in US history, [2] with a total of twelve number-one hit singles on the US Billboard Hot 100, including, "Where Did Our Love Go", "Baby Love", "Come See About Me", and "Love Child". [3]

  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • composer
  • actress
  • record producer
  • film producer
  • television producer
  • screenwriter
  • entertainer

Following departure from the Supremes in 1970, Ross embarked on a successful solo career in music, film, television and on stage. Her eponymous debut solo album, featured the U.S. number-one hit "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" and music anthem "Reach Out and Touch (Somebody's Hand)". It was followed with her second solo album, Everything Is Everything, which spawned her first UK number-one single "I'm Still Waiting". She continued her successful solo career by mounting elaborate record-setting world-wide concert tours, starring in a number of highly watched prime-time television specials and releasing hit albums like Touch Me in the Morning (1973), Mahogany (1975) and Diana Ross (1976) and their number-one hit singles, "Touch Me in the Morning", "Theme from Mahogany" and "Love Hangover", respectively. Ross further released numerous top-ten hits into the 1970s, 80s and 90s. She achieved two more US number-one singles, "Upside Down" (1980) and "Endless Love" (1981), as well as UK number-one hit "Chain Reaction" (1986) and UK number-two hit "When You Tell Me That You Love Me" (1991).

Ross has also ventured into acting, with a Golden Globe Award-winning and Academy Award-nominated performance in the film Lady Sings the Blues (1972) she recorded its soundtrack, which became a number one hit on the U.S. album chart. She also starred in two other feature films, Mahogany (1975) and The Wiz (1978), later acting in the television films Out of Darkness (1994), for which she also was nominated for a Golden Globe Award, and Double Platinum (1999).

Ross was named the "Female Entertainer of the Century" by Billboard in 1976. She is the only female artist to have number-one singles on the Billboard Hot 100 as a solo artist, as the other half of a duet, as a member of a trio, and as an ensemble member. Billboard ranked her as 28th greatest Hot 100 artist of all time. [4] Ross ranks among the Top 5 artists on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart from 1955 to 2018 when combining her solo and Supremes' hits. [5] She had a top 10 UK hit in every one of the last five decades, and sang lead on a top 75 hit single at least once every year from 1964 to 1996 in the UK, a period of 33 consecutive years and a record for any performer. In 1988, Ross was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Supremes. Guinness Book of World Records recognized her success in the United States and United Kingdom for having more hits than any female artist in the charts, with a career total of 70 hit singles with her work with the Supremes and as a solo artist. She was the recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors in 2007, the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016.

Diana Ross & The Supremes Return To Love Tour

The Return to Love Tour was a 2000 concert tour by American singing group Diana Ross and the Supremes.

In 1999, Diana Ross released her final album on Motown Records, Every Day is a New Day. According to Ross (in an interview with Barbara Walters), Scott Sanders, a close friend of Ross', suggested adding an entire Supremes segment to her promotional concert tour for the then-new album in which she would perform full versions of the hits she recorded when she was with the Supremes. The idea developed into an entire show of Supremes songs which would reunite Ross with her former singing partners, Mary Wilson and Cindy Birdsong, as well as tour for the first time with all of the women who became Supremes following Ross' departure in January, 1970, Jean Terrell, Susaye Greene, Scherrie Payne and Lynda Laurence. Ross approached Arthur Fogel, head of concert promotions for TNA/SFX(now Live Nation Entertainment), who, reportedly, agreed. In the fall and winter of 1999, Ross contacted all of the group's former members, placing them in contact with TNA/SFX, then left negotiations between the artists, their agents and TNA/SFX. Upon contacting the tour's promoter, Wilson's initial queries regarded Ross' salary.

Negotiations between the Supremes and the promoters began to crumble in December 1999, shortly after Ross contacted Wilson. In conflicting accounts given by Wilson to The New York Times and ABC's Primetime Live television program, Wilson stated that she wanted to speak with Ross directly before beginning negotiations, while Ross felt they should speak after negotiations took place. Following Ross' initial contact, she removed herself from the negotiations leaving them between the women, their representatives, and the promoters. TNA/SFX initially offered all of the women $1 million in guaranteed payment, meaning that they'd receive the full amount of their contracts, regardless of how many performances actually took place, as stipulated by Ross. Tour performance fees are determined by an artist's most recent earnings. Wilson, stated that she'd earned roughly $1 million in performance fees the previous year. Wilson and Birdsong were also informed they would have not have any creative input into the show, as neither had previous experience constructing a stadium tour. Wilson rejected the initial offer feeling she, Ross, and Birdsong should be paid equally and have equal input into the show. By this time, Wilson convinced Birdsong to let Wilson negotiate on her behalf, though no evidence has surfaced suggesting any efforts made by Wilson to increase Birdsong's offer. TNA/SFX increased Wilson's offer to $2 million after her initial rejection. Ross agreed to offer Wilson an additional $2 million from her personal finances, for a total of $4 million. Wilson and Birdsong's request for creative input into the show was again rejected. Wilson erroneously stated publicly that Ross was to receive between $15 to $20 million for the tour. Ross, as the tour's co-producer, was receiving $500,000USD per night from TNA/SFX to cover the tour's expenses. When the tour's expenses exceeded the allotment, Ross personally covered the overages.

Wilson's final offer of $4 million and Birdsong's offer of $1 million came with a deadline of early 2000 (in order to begin production of the sets, costume fittings, hiring of staff, etc., as well as the on-schedule commencement of the tour). The deadline passed before Wilson accepted the final offer. The promoter ceased negotiations with Wilson and Birdsong. Without Wilson or Birdsong, Ross began to question whether to continue to stage the tour. Berry Gordy, after being contacted by Ross for advice, reportedly told her to continue "If it's something she'd have fun doing.". Ross decided to continue.

70s Supremes Lynda Lawrence and Sherry Payne (members of Former Ladies of The Supremes), already in negotiations with TNA/SFX for the tour, were chosen to perform with Ross on the tour. 70s lead singer Jean Terrell opted out of the tour, following a request by TNA/SFX that she audition, as promoters had not heard her singing voice since her 70s hit singles with The Supremes, "Up The Ladder To The Roof" and "Stoned Love". Susaye Greene also chose not to participate in the tour.

Wilson began a negative press tour, condemning RTL and Ross, in particular. Following Wilson's "Primetime Live" appearance, Ross appeared the next night with Barbra Walters to correct some of Wilson's misstatements concerning the origins of the tour and alleged disparity in pay between herself and Wilson, to no avail. Press reports vilified Ross, though few, if any, media outlets contacted TNA/SFX to ascertain which artist's narrative was correct.

The tour received extensive promotion with Ross, Laurence, and Payne appearing on "The Today Show", "The Oprah Winfrey Show," and VH1's "Divas 2000: A Tribute To Diana Ross", following the tour's initial press conference held in the Grand Concourse of New York City's Grand Central Station. During the press conference, Ross again suggested that the group's other former members were welcome to join the tour.

The tour commenced at Philadelphia's Spectrum arena, before a sold-out crowd of 18,000+ strong. The concert's first fifteen minutes were aired by VH1. Bob Mackie designed five costume changes for the tour. The show included massive video screens, a troupe of dancers, backing singers and a 50-piece orchestra. The show initially ran roughly two and a half hours, but it was shortened after the intermission was eliminated following their performance in Detroit, Michigan.

Ross performed her solo hits following intermission with the addition of Laurence performing "Up The Ladder To The Roof" and Payne performing "Stoned Love" later in the tour.

Despite glowing reviews, ticket sales in many markets were not as brisk as expected, reportedly settling somewhere between 5,000 and 11,000 tickets sold per show, in venues with capacities of 18,000 to 20,000. The tour's only other sellout performance was its last at New York City's Madison Square Garden. The show received glowing reviews and included an impromptu duet between Ross and R&B singer Luther Vandross of her 1993 single "Best Years of My Life".

Shortly after the MSG performance, TNA/SFX cancelled the tour, citing slow ticket sales.

1983-2006: Diana-Unstoppable

Diana reunites with her bandmates from the Supremes for the television special "Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever."

Diana performs a free concert on Central Park's Great Lawn. During the show, a torrential downpour begins and Diana continues performing. The show ends early and she promises to perform the next day.

Diana marries Arne Næss Jr. This year, she hosts the 13th annual American Music Awards.



In Detroit in 1958, Florence Ballard, a junior high school student living in the Brewster-Douglass Housing Projects, met Paul Williams and Eddie Kendricks, who were two members of a Detroit singing group known as the Primes. [2] Ballard sang, as did Paul Williams' girlfriend Betty McGlown, so Milton Jenkins, the Primes's manager, decided to create a sister group to be called the Primettes. [2] Ballard recruited her best friend Mary Wilson, who recruited classmate Diana Ross. [2] Mentored and funded by Jenkins, the Primettes began by performing hit songs of artists such as Ray Charles and the Drifters at sock hops, social clubs and talent shows around the Detroit area. [3] Receiving additional guidance from group friend and established songwriter Jesse Greer, the quartet quickly earned a local fan following. [4] The girls crafted an age-appropriate style that was inspired by the collegiate dress of popular doo-wop group Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers. For the most part, Ballard, Ross and Wilson performed equal leads on songs. Within a few months, guitarist Marvin Tarplin was added to the Primettes' lineup— a move that helped distinguish the group from Detroit's many other aspiring acts by allowing the girls to sing live instead of lip-synching. [5]

After winning the Windsor–Detroit International Freedom Festival on July 4, 1960, the Primettes' sights were set on making a record. [3] In hopes of getting the group signed to the local upstart Motown label, in 1960 Ross asked an old neighbor, Miracles lead singer Smokey Robinson, to help the group land an audition for Motown executive Berry Gordy, who had already proven himself a capable songwriter. [6] Robinson liked "the girls" (as they were then known around Motown) [7] and agreed to help, but he liked their guitarist even more with the Primettes' permission he hired Tarplin, who became the guitarist for the Miracles. [8] Robinson arranged for the Primettes to audition a cappella for Gordy—but Gordy, feeling the girls too young and inexperienced to be recording artists, encouraged them to return when they had graduated from high school. [8] [7] Undaunted, later that year the Primettes recorded a single for Lu Pine Records, a label created just for them, titled "Tears of Sorrow", which was backed with "Pretty Baby". [9] The single failed to find an audience, however. [9] Shortly thereafter, McGlown became engaged and left the group. [10] Local girl Barbara Martin was McGlown's prompt replacement. [9]

Determined to leave an impression on Gordy and join the stable of rising Motown stars, the Primettes frequented his Hitsville U.S.A. recording studio. [11] Eventually, they convinced Gordy to allow them to contribute hand claps and background vocals for the songs of other Motown artists including Marvin Gaye and Mary Wells. [12] In January 1961, Gordy finally relented and agreed to sign the girls to his label – but under the condition that they change the name of their group. [11] [13] The Primes had by this time combined with Otis Williams & the Distants and would soon sign to Motown as the Temptations. [14] Gordy gave Ballard a list of names to choose from that included suggestions such as "the Darleens", "the Sweet Ps", "the Melodees", "the Royaltones" and "the Jewelettes". [15] Ballard chose "the Supremes". [16] [12] In the spring of 1962, Martin left the group to start a family. Thus, the newly named Supremes continued as a trio. [17]

Between 1961 and 1963, the Supremes released six singles, starting with "I Want a Guy" and "Buttered Popcorn" on Motown subsidiary label Tamla. [11] However, none of those first six singles charted in the Top 40 positions of the Billboard Hot 100. [18] Jokingly referred to as the "no-hit Supremes" around Motown's Hitsville U.S.A. offices, [19] the group attempted to compensate for their lack of hits by taking on any work available at the studio, including providing hand claps and singing backup for Motown artists such as Marvin Gaye and the Temptations. During these years, all three members took turns singing lead: Wilson favored soft ballads, Ballard favored soulful, hard-driving songs, and Ross favored mainstream pop songs. Most of their early material was written and produced by Berry Gordy or Smokey Robinson. [11] [20] In December 1963, the single "When the Lovelight Starts Shining Through His Eyes" peaked at number 23 on the Billboard Hot 100. [21]

"Lovelight" was the first of many Supremes songs written by the Motown songwriting and production team known as Holland–Dozier–Holland. [11] In late 1963, Berry Gordy chose Diane Ross — who began going by "Diana" in 1965—as the official lead singer of the group. [22] Ballard and Wilson were periodically given solos on Supremes albums, and Ballard continued to sing her solo number, "People", in concert for the next two years. [23]

In the spring of 1964, the Supremes recorded the single "Where Did Our Love Go". [24] The song was originally intended by Holland-Dozier-Holland for the Marvelettes, who rejected it. [24] Although the Supremes disliked the song, the producers coerced them into recording it. [24] In August 1964, while the Supremes toured as part of Dick Clark's Caravan of Stars, "Where Did Our Love Go" reached number one on the US pop charts, much to the surprise and delight of the group. [25] It was also their first song to appear on the UK singles chart, where it reached number three. [26]

"Where Did Our Love Go" was followed by four consecutive US number-one hits: [7] "Baby Love" (which was also a number-one hit in the UK), "Come See About Me", "Stop! In the Name of Love" and "Back in My Arms Again". [21] [27] "Baby Love" was nominated for the 1965 Grammy Award for Best R&B Song. [28]


The Supremes deliberately embraced a more glamorous image than previous black performers. Much of this was accomplished at the behest of Motown chief Berry Gordy and Maxine Powell, who ran Motown's in-house finishing school and Artist Development department. [29] Unlike many of her contemporaries, Ross sang in a thin, calm voice, and her vocal styling was matched by having all three women embellish their femininity instead of imitate the qualities of male groups. Eschewing plain appearances and basic dance routines, the Supremes appeared onstage in detailed make-up and high-fashion gowns and wigs, and performed graceful choreography created by Motown choreographer Cholly Atkins. Powell told the group to "be prepared to perform before kings and queens." [29] Gordy wanted the Supremes, like all of his performers, to be equally appealing to black and white audiences. [30]

Public magazines such as Time and The Detroit News commented on the Supremes' polished presentation. [31] In a May 1965 profile of rock music, Time called the Supremes "the reigning female rock 'n' roll group" and said that Ross "is greatly envied for the torchy, come-hither purr in her voice." [32] Arnold S. Hirsch of The Detroit News said about the Supremes: "they don't scream or wail incoherently. An adult can understand nine out of every 10 words they sing. And, most astounding, melody can be clearly detected in every song." [31] Encyclopedia Britannica commented that the Supremes' hit singles "sounded modern, upwardly mobile, and stylishly sensual in a way that appealed equally to adults and teens of all persuasions." [33]

By 1965, the Supremes were international stars. They toured the world, becoming almost as popular abroad as they were in the US. [34] [35] Almost immediately after their initial number-one hits, they recorded songs for motion picture soundtracks, appeared in the 1965 film Beach Ball, and endorsed dozens of products, at one point having their own brand of bread. By the end of 1966, their number-one hits included "I Hear a Symphony", "You Can't Hurry Love" and "You Keep Me Hangin' On". [36] That year the group also released The Supremes A' Go-Go, which on October 22 became the first album by an all-female group to reach number one on the US Billboard 200, knocking the Beatles' Revolver out of the top spot. [37] Because the Supremes were popular with white audiences as well as with black ones, Gordy had the group perform at renowned supper clubs such as the Copacabana in New York. [38] Broadway and pop standards were incorporated into their repertoire alongside their own hit songs. [39] As a result, the Supremes became one of the first black musical acts to achieve complete and sustained crossover success. Black rock and roll musicians of the 1950s had seen many of their original hit tunes covered by white musicians, with these covers usually achieving more fame and sales success than the originals. The Supremes' success, however, counteracted this trend. Featuring three group members who were marketed for their individual personalities (a move unprecedented at the time) and Diana Ross's pop-friendly voice, the Supremes broke down racial barriers with rock and roll songs underpinned by R&B stylings. The group became extremely popular both domestically and abroad, becoming one of the first black musical acts to appear regularly on television programs such as Hullabaloo, The Hollywood Palace, The Della Reese Show, and, most notably, The Ed Sullivan Show, on which they made 17 appearances. [29] In 2003, Fred Bronson wrote that in 1959, when the Supremes formed as the Primettes, "no one could have predicted they would become the most successful American singing group of all time." [40]


Problems within the group and within Motown Records' stable of performers led to tension among the members of the Supremes. Many of the other Motown performers felt that Berry Gordy was lavishing too much attention upon the group and upon Ross, in particular. [18] In early 1967, the name of the act was officially changed briefly to "the Supremes with Diana Ross" before changing again to "Diana Ross & the Supremes" by mid-summer. [11] The Miracles had become "Smokey Robinson & the Miracles" two years prior. The fall of 1967 saw Martha & the Vandellas become "Martha Reeves & the Vandellas". [41] Having learned that Ross would receive top billing, David Ruffin lobbied, unsuccessfully, to have the Temptations renamed as "David Ruffin & the Temptations", [42] although Gordy maintained that because they would be providing two acts, a lead singer and a group, Motown could demand more money for live bookings. [43]

The Supremes' name change fueled already present rumors of a solo career for Ross and contributed to the professional and personal dismantling of the group. In fact, Gordy intended to replace Ross with Barbara Randolph as early as the fall of 1966, but changed his mind and instead kept Ross in the group for several more years. [44]

As Ross became the focal point of the Supremes, Ballard suffered from depression and began to drink excessively, gaining weight until she could no longer comfortably wear many of her stage outfits. During this turbulent period, Ballard relied heavily upon the advice of group mate Mary Wilson, with whom she had maintained a close friendship. Wilson, while outwardly demure and neutral in hopes of keeping the group stable, privately advised Ballard that Ross and Gordy were eager to oust Ballard. [45]

By 1967, Ballard would not show up for recording dates, or would arrive at shows too inebriated to perform. For some early 1967 shows, she was replaced by Marlene Barrow (a member of the Motown backup group The Andantes). Looking for a more permanent replacement, Gordy once again thought of Barbara Randolph, possibly believing that Randolph could be groomed as lead singer for the group once it was decided to take Ross solo. However, Ross did not receive Randolph well. In April 1967, Gordy then contacted Cindy Birdsong, a member of Patti LaBelle & the Blue Belles who superficially resembled Ballard, with plans to bring her in as Ballard's replacement. [46] He made his plans clear to Ballard and her group mates at a mid-April meeting, and Birdsong was brought in to begin rehearsals. [46] Gordy did not fire Ballard outright at that time, asking Ballard instead to quit on her own. [46]

Birdsong first appeared with the Supremes in Ballard's place at a benefit concert at the Hollywood Bowl on April 29, 1967. [46] [47] Following the performance, Gordy quickly learned that Birdsong was still contractually committed to the Blue Belles when that group's lawyers filed an injunction against him. In May, Ballard returned for what she believed was a probationary period, although in reality it was a stopgap measure until Gordy was able to buy out Birdsong's contract. During May and June, knowing that she was one step away from being dismissed, Ballard made an attempt to toe the line, slimming down and showing up to commitments on time and sober. Despite this, Birdsong was secretly traveling with the Supremes, studying their routines. [46]

On June 29, 1967, the group returned to the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas as "Diana Ross & the Supremes". The first two days of the Flamingo engagement went by smoothly. On July 1, when reporting for makeup and wardrobe before their first show of the evening, Ballard discovered an extra set of gowns and costumes that had been brought along for Cindy Birdsong. Angered, Ballard performed the first concert of the night inebriated, leading to an embarrassing on-stage incident in which her stomach was revealed when she purposely thrust it forward during a dance routine. Enraged, Gordy ordered her back to Detroit and permanently dismissed her from the group. Birdsong officially assumed her place during the second July 1 show. [48]

Ballard's release from Motown was made final on February 22, 1968, when she received a one-time payment of US$139,804.94 in royalties and earnings. [49] She attempted a solo career with ABC Records, and was forced to formally reject a solo contract offered by Motown as part of her settlement. [50] Ballard's two 1968 singles failed to chart and her solo album was shelved. [51] In 1971, Ballard sued Motown for $8.7 million, claiming that Gordy and Diana Ross had conspired to force her out of the group [52] the judge ruled in favor of Motown. Ballard eventually sank into poverty and died abruptly on February 22, 1976, from coronary thrombosis at the age of 32. [53]

Ross's departure

Holland-Dozier-Holland left Motown in early 1968 after a dispute with the label over royalties and profit sharing. [54] The quality of Motown's output (and Diana Ross & the Supremes' records in particular) began to falter as a result. From "Reflections" in 1967 to "The Weight" in 1969, only six out of the eleven released singles reached the Top 20, and only one of those, 1968's "Love Child", [55] made it to number one. Due to the tension within the group and stringent touring schedules, neither Mary Wilson nor Cindy Birdsong appear on many of these singles they were replaced on these recordings by session singers such as the Andantes. [56] The changes within the group and their decreasing sales were signs of changes within the music industry. The gospel-based soul of female performers such as Aretha Franklin had eclipsed the Supremes' pop-based sound, which had by now evolved to include more middle-of-the-road material. In a cultural climate now influenced more than ever by countercultural movements such as the Black Panther Party, the Supremes found themselves attacked for not being "black enough", and lost ground in the black music market. [57]

In mid-1968, Motown initiated a number of high-profile collaborations for the Supremes with their old colleagues, the Temptations. Besides the fact that both groups had come up together, the pairings made financial sense: the Supremes had a mostly white fanbase, while the Temptations a mostly black fanbase. By 1969, the label began plans for a Diana Ross solo career. [58] A number of candidates—most notably Syreeta Wright—were considered to replace Ross. After seeing 24-year-old Jean Terrell perform with her brother Ernie in Florida, Berry Gordy decided on Ross' replacement. Terrell was signed to Motown and began recording the first post-Ross Supremes songs with Wilson and Birdsong during the day, while Wilson and Birdsong toured with Ross at night. At the same time, Ross began to make her first solo recordings. On November 2, 1969, Ross's solo career was first reported by the Detroit Free Press. [59]

"Someday We'll Be Together" was recorded with the intent of releasing it as the first solo single for Diana Ross. Desiring a final Supremes number-one record, Gordy instead had the song released as a Diana Ross & the Supremes single, despite the fact that neither Wilson nor Birdsong sang on the record. "Someday We'll Be Together" hit number one on the American pop charts, becoming not only the Supremes' 12th and final number-one hit, but also the final number-one hit of the 1960s. This single also would mark the Supremes' final television appearance together with Ross, performing on The Ed Sullivan Show on December 21, 1969. [60]

The Supremes in the 1970s

Diana Ross & the Supremes gave their final performance on January 14, 1970, at the Frontier Hotel in Las Vegas. [61] A live recording of the performance was released later that year in a double-LP box set titled Farewell. At the final performance, the replacement for Diana Ross, Jean Terrell, was introduced. According to Mary Wilson, after this performance, Berry Gordy wanted to replace Terrell with Syreeta Wright. Wilson refused, leading to Gordy stating that he was washing his hands of the group thereafter. [62] After the Frontier Hotel performance, Ross officially began her career as a solo performer. Mary Wilson and Cindy Birdsong continued working with Jean Terrell on the first post-Ross Supremes album, Right On. [63]

The Terrell-led Supremes—now rebranded as "the Supremes" known unofficially at first as "the New Supremes", and in later years informally called "The '70s Supremes"—scored hits including "Up the Ladder to the Roof" (US number 10, UK number 6), "Stoned Love" (US number 7, UK number 3) and "Nathan Jones" (US number 16, UK number 5), all of which were produced by Frank Wilson. These three singles were also R&B Top Ten hits, with "Stoned Love" becoming their last No.1 R&B hit in December 1970. Songwriting/production team Nickolas Ashford & Valerie Simpson produced another Top 20 hit for the group, a Supremes/Four Tops duet version of Ike & Tina Turner's "River Deep – Mountain High". [64]

In 1972, the Supremes had their last Top 20 hit single release, "Floy Joy", written and produced by Smokey Robinson, followed by the final US Top 40 hit for the Jean Terrell-led version of the group, "Automatically Sunshine" (US number 37, UK number 10). "Automatically Sunshine" later became the group's final top 10 single in the UK. On both "Floy Joy" and "Sunshine" Terrell shared lead with Mary Wilson. Motown, by then moving from Detroit to Los Angeles to break into motion pictures, put only limited effort into promoting the Supremes' new material, and their popularity and sales began to wane. Cindy Birdsong left the group in April 1972, after recording the Floy Joy album, to start a family her replacement was Lynda Laurence, a former member of Stevie Wonder's backup group, Third Generation (a predecessor to Wonderlove). Jimmy Webb was hired to produce the group's next LP, The Supremes Produced and Arranged by Jimmy Webb, [65] but the album and its only single "I Guess I'll Miss the Man" failed to make an impact on the Billboard pop chart, with the single peaking at number 85 on November 24, 1972. [21]

In early 1973, the Stevie Wonder-produced "Bad Weather" peaked at number 87 on the US pop charts and number 37 in the UK. [21] [26] Laurence left to start a family, so Cindy Birdsong returned to the group. [66]

Dismayed by this poor-performing record and the lack of promotional support from Motown, Jean Terrell left the group and was replaced by Scherrie Payne, the sister of Invictus Records recording artist Freda Payne. [66]

Between the 1973 departures of Laurence and Terrell and the first Supremes single with Scherrie Payne, "He's My Man", a disco single on which Payne and Wilson shared lead vocal, Motown was slow in producing contracts for Payne and the returning Birdsong. Before the release of the album in 1975, the Supremes remained a popular live act, and continued touring overseas, particularly in the UK and Japan. The group's new recordings were not as successful as their earlier releases, although "He's My Man" from the album The Supremes was a popular disco hit in 1975. In 1976, Birdsong left again and was replaced by Susaye Greene, another former member of Wonderlove. [67]

This final version of the Supremes released two albums, both of which reunited the Supremes with Holland-Dozier-Holland: High Energy, which includes Birdsong on all of the tracks, and Mary, Scherrie & Susaye. [11] During that year, the Supremes released "I'm Gonna Let My Heart Do the Walking", their final Top 40 hit on the Billboard Hot 100. [21]

On June 12, 1977, the Supremes performed their farewell concert at the Drury Lane Theater in London as Wilson made her exit for a solo career and Scherrie and Susaye had selected Joyce Vincent to round out the trio as a new third member. Instead, Motown decided that without any original members, the Supremes would be disbanded. [16]

Works inspired by the Supremes

Several fictional works have been published and produced that are based in part on the career of the group. The 1976 film Sparkle features the story of a Supremes-like singing trio called "Sister & the Sisters" from Harlem, New York. The film's score was composed by Curtis Mayfield, and the soundtrack album by Aretha Franklin was a commercial success. A remake of Sparkle was in development in the early 2000s with R&B singer Aaliyah as the lead, but the project was shelved when Aaliyah died in 2001. [68] The Sparkle remake was eventually released in August 2012 and starred Jordin Sparks and Whitney Houston, in her final film role. [69]

On December 21, 1981, the Tony Award-winning musical Dreamgirls opened at the Imperial Theatre on Broadway and ran for 1,522 performances. The musical, loosely based on the history of the Supremes, follows the story of the Dreams, an all-female singing trio from Chicago who become music superstars. Several of the characters in the play are analogues of real-life Supremes/Motown counterparts, with the story focusing upon the Florence Ballard doppelgänger Effie White. While influenced by the Supremes' and Motown's music, the songs in the play are a broader mix of R&B/soul and Broadway music. Mary Wilson loved the musical, but Diana Ross was reportedly angered by it and refused to see it. [70]

Awards and followers

The Supremes were twice nominated for a Grammy Award—for Best Rhythm & Blues Recording ("Baby Love", 1965) and Best Contemporary Rock & Roll Group Vocal Performance ("Stop! In the Name of Love", 1966)—but never won an award in competition. [71] Three of their songs were added to the Grammy Hall of Fame: "Where Did Our Love Go" and "You Keep Me Hangin' On" (both 1999) and "Stop! In the Name of Love" (2001). [72]

"Stop! In the Name of Love" and "You Can't Hurry Love" are among the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll. [73] The Ross-Wilson-Ballard lineup was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988, received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1994, and entered into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 1998. In 2004, Rolling Stone placed the group at number 97 on their list of the "100 Greatest Artists of All Time". [74] The Supremes are notable for the influences they have had on black girl groups who have succeeded them in popular music, such as The Three Degrees, The Emotions, The Pointer Sisters, En Vogue, TLC, Destiny's Child and Cleopatra. [75]

"The Beatles were there," said Madonna of her childhood, "but I was more eager about The Supremes. I was really into girl groups." [76]


Fan interest made the idea of a Supremes reunion tour a very profitable one during the 1980s. In 1982, around the time that Motown reunited all of the Temptations, it was rumored that Motown would reunite the Supremes. The 1974 line-up of the Supremes (Wilson, Birdsong and Payne) was considered for this reunion, which was to include new recordings and a tour. Under advisement from Berry Gordy, Wilson declined to reunite, and the idea was scrapped. Ross briefly reunited with Wilson and Birdsong to perform "Someday We'll Be Together" on the Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever television special, taped on March 25, 1983, and broadcast on NBC on May 16, 1983. [77]

In 2000, plans were made for Ross to join Wilson and Birdsong for a planned "Diana Ross & the Supremes: Return to Love" reunion tour. However, Wilson passed on the idea, because while the promoters offered Ross $15 million to perform, Wilson was offered $4 million and Birdsong less than $1 million. [78] Ross herself offered to double the amounts both Wilson and Birdsong had originally been offered, but while Birdsong accepted, Wilson remained adamant, and as a result the deal fell through with both former Supremes. Eventually, the "Return to Love" tour went on as scheduled, but with Payne and Laurence joining Ross, although none of the three had ever been in the group at the same time and neither Payne nor Laurence had sung on any of the original hit recordings that they were now singing live. Susaye Greene was also considered for this tour, but refused to audition for it. The music critics cried foul and many fans were disappointed by both this and the shows' high ticket prices. Though the tour did well in larger markets including near capacity at the opening night in Philadelphia and a sellout at Madison Square Garden in New York, it under performed in smaller/medium markets. The tour was canceled after playing only half of the dates on itinerary. [79]

Post-Supremes groups

In 1986, Jean Terrell, Scherrie Payne and Lynda Laurence began to perform as "The FLOS": Former Ladies of the Supremes. When Terrell quit in 1992, Sundray Tucker, Laurence's sister, stepped in for a short time, but was replaced by Freddi Poole in 1996. More recently in September 2009, Poole was replaced by Joyce Vincent, formerly of Tony Orlando and Dawn.

Kaaren Ragland along with Karen Jackson and Debbie Sharpe performed with Mary Wilson from 1978 through the mid-1980s for background work to help Wilson fulfill contractual obligations concerning The Supremes in order to avoid being sued by Motown as Wilson stated in her 1990 book. In 1989, Ragland formed her own group called "the Sounds of the Supremes". She has claimed numerous times that she was a member of the Supremes because of her performances with Wilson, but she was never signed by Motown and performed with Wilson only after the Supremes disbanded in 1977 and is not considered as a member of the Supremes. [80]

Long before they were internationally-known superstars and the inspiration for the Broadway and film versions of “Dreamgirls,” The Supremes were three high-schoolers growing up in the Detroit projects. Originally known as The Primettes, Diana Ross, Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard would go on to become the most successful “girl group” in history.

The Supremes first appeared on the Sullivan stage on December 27, 1964 to perform their smash single, “Come See About Me.” In this early black and white performance, the girls wore simple dresses and matching bouffant hair-dos, and the audience fell in love with their infectious charm and appeal. Over the next several years, with the support of Motown songwriters, choreographers and stylists, their look and sound became much more sophisticated. By the time they performed their hit “You Can’t Hurry Love” on Sullivan in 1966, the trio had gone from cute girls to beautiful women, showing off sequined gowns, glamorous hair and impressive talent.

On November 19th 1967, a memorable event featured two of Motown’s biggest acts – The Supremes and The Temptations on The Ed Sullivan Show. The Supremes sang The Temptations’ hits (“Get Ready” and “I’m Losing You”), while The Temptations performed The Supremes’ hits (“Stop! In The Name of Love,” and “Baby Love”). The success of this musical pairing inspired NBC to give them two primetime specials.

Apart their great performances, what makes the Supremes’ run on The Ed Sullivan Show so special is the relationship the group had with Ed Sullivan himself. By all accounts, Sullivan developed a soft spot for the three young singers over the course of the show’s run. Mary Wilson was quoted as telling reporters, “At first, being young, there was a little distance, but he became very close to us when he found we were kind of, you know, nice girls. He really liked that.”

But the symbiotic relationship between The Ed Sullivan Show and The Supremes was more than just a soft spot. The show offered not only a highly visible stage for the group, but also some valuable artistic advice as well. John Moffitt, one of The Ed Sullivan Show directors, recalls that the show’s musical director Bob Arthur “was the first one to talk Diana Ross into doing classics rather than just doing the real pop stuff. He talked her into doing classics – Rodgers and Hammerstein and other composers. [Arthur] helped, really, to diversify her material and her career.” On the May 5th 1968 show, The Supremes performance was dedicated to composer Irving Berlin. They performed a 5-minute medley (with Ethel Merman) of 50 Irving Berlin-tunes.

On December 21st 1969, Diana Ross and The Supremes performed their final song together as a group, the ironically entitled “Someday We’ll Be Together.” When the cameras cut to Ed, he told the audience that Diana Ross was leaving the group to pursue a solo career. In effect, it ended The Supremes’ run on this very stage where they had risen to fame.

The departure of Ross struck a major blow to the Supremes, who were unable to find success in the years after Diana Ross’ departure. Ballard fell on hard times and died of heart failure in 1976. After the group’s final performance in London in 1977, Wilson disbanded the group and retired the name. Ross went on to massive solo career, earning a Golden Globe, an Academy Award nomination, a Tony and a Kennedy Center Honor.

After everything was said and done, the Supremes had twelve #1 singles, setting the record for the most consecutive #1 hits for an American group. The darlings of the Sullivan show were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988, and their timeless performances on The Ed Sullivan Show remind us of the trio’s immense and undeniable talent. The career of The Supremes is inextricably interwoven with the musical history of the Sullivan Show .

January 14, 1970 – Diana Ross and the Supremes perform their final concert

They were the most successful American pop group of the 1960s—a group whose 12 #1 hits in the first full decade of the rock and roll era places them behind only Elvis and the Beatles in terms of chart dominance.

They helped define the very sound of the 60s, but like fellow icons the Beatles and Simon and Garfunkel, they came apart in the first year of the 70s.

The curtain closed for good on Diana Ross and the Supremes on January 14, 1970, at the Frontier Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The farewell concert in Vegas was the final act in a drawn-out breakup that didn’t become official until November 1969, but probably became inevitable in July 1967, when Motown Records chief Berry Gordy gave Diana Ross top billing over the Supremes.

That move clearly signaled Gordy’s intention to launch Diana on a solo career—something he may have had in mind from the moment he upgraded her first name from “Diane” and upstaged her fellow Supremes by making Diana the group’s official lead singer.

Mary Wilson, Florence Ballard and Diane Ross grew up together in Detroit’s Brewster housing project and started out as co-equals in a singing group they called “the Primettes.”

It took them several years of toiling within the hit factory Berry Gordy was assembling before the girls made their breakthrough in 1964.

Those years included a Gordy-inspired name change for the group a Gordy-mandated buffing and polishing in Motown’s in-house finishing school and, eventually, a Gordy-dictated elevation of Diana over her childhood friends, Flo and Mary.

Yet even into early 1964, the group that would become Motown’s greatest commercial success was known as the “No-Hit Supremes” around Hitsville, U.S.A., the company’s Detroit headquarters.

It was “Where Did Our Love Go”—a song written by the soon-to-be-legendary team of Holland-Dozier-Holland and rejected by the soon-to-be-eclipsed Marvelettes—that kicked off a run of success that saw the Supremes score an incredible five straight #1 singles in a 10-month span from July 1964 to May 1965.

Five more #1s would come before Motown forced Flo Ballard out of the group she created, and two more would come with Cindy Birdsong as Ballard’s replacement before Diana Ross left the Supremes behind.


Diana Ross was born in Detroit, Michigan, on March 26, 1944. [6] [7] She was the second-eldest child of Ernestine (née Moten January 27, 1916 – October 9, 1984) and Fred Ross, Sr. (July 4, 1920 – November 21, 2007). Ross's elder sister is American physician Barbara Ross-Lee. [8]

According to Ross, her mother actually named her "Diane", but, a clerical error resulted in her name being recorded as "Diana" on her birth certificate. She was listed as "Diane" during the first Supremes records, and she introduced herself as "Diane" until early in the group's heyday. Her friends and family still call her "Diane". [9] [10]

Ross's grandfather John E. Ross, a native of Gloucester County, Virginia, was born to Washington Ross and Virginia Baytop. Virginia Baytop's mother Francis "Frankey" Baytop was a former slave who had become a midwife after the Civil War. [ citation needed ]

Ross and her family originally lived on Belmont Road in the North End section of Detroit, near Highland Park, Michigan, where her neighbor was Smokey Robinson. When Ross was seven, her mother contracted tuberculosis, causing her to become seriously ill. Ross's father moved with his children to live with relatives in Bessemer, Alabama. After her mother recovered, her family moved back to Detroit.

On her 14th birthday in 1958, her family relocated to the working-class Brewster-Douglass Housing Projects settling at St. Antoine Street. Attending Cass Technical High School, [11] a four-year college and preparatory magnet school, in downtown Detroit, Ross began taking classes including clothing design, millinery, pattern making, and tailoring, as she had aspired to become a fashion designer. She also took modeling and cosmetology classes at the school and participated in three or four other extracurricular activities while being there.

Ross also worked at Hudson's Department Store where it has been claimed in biographies, she was the first black employee "allowed outside the kitchen". [12] For extra income, she provided hairdressing services for her neighbors. Ross graduated from Cass Tech in January 1962.

The Supremes: 1959–1970 Edit

At fifteen, Ross joined the Primettes, a sister group of a male vocal group called the Primes, after being brought to the attention of music manager Milton Jenkins by Primes member Paul Williams. Along with Ross, the other members included Florence Ballard, the first group member hired by Jenkins, Mary Wilson, and Betty McGlown. Following a talent competition win in Windsor, Ontario, in 1960, the Primettes were invited to audition for Motown Records.

Later, following local success via live performances at sock hops, etc., Ross approached former neighbor (and rumored childhood former boyfriend), William "Smokey" Robinson, who insisted that the group audition for him first. Robinson agreed to bring the Primettes to Motown, in exchange for letting him and the Miracles hire the Primettes' guitarist, Marv Tarplin, for an upcoming tour. Tarplin played in Robinson's band(s) for the next 30-plus years.

In her autobiography, Secrets of a Sparrow, Ross wrote that she felt that deal was "a fair trade". The Primettes later auditioned for Motown Records, before various Motown executives. In Berry Gordy's autobiography, To Be Loved, Gordy recalled he was heading to a business meeting when he heard Ross singing "There Goes My Baby" and Ross's voice "stopped me in my tracks". He approached the group and asked them to perform it again but, learning of their ages, Gordy advised them to come back after graduating from high school. [13]

Undeterred, the group went to Motown's Hitsville U.S.A. headquarters regularly, offering to provide extra help for Motown's recordings, often including hand claps and background vocals. That year, the group recorded two tracks for Lu Pine Records, with Ross singing lead on one of the tracks. During the group's early years, Ross served as hairstylist, make-up artist, seamstress, and costume designer. In late 1960, having replaced McGlown with Barbara Martin, the Primettes were allowed to record their own songs at Hitsville's studio, many written by "Smokey" Robinson, who, by then, was vice president of Motown ("Your Heart Belongs to Me" and "A Breathtaking Guy"). Gordy, too, composed songs for the trio, including "Buttered Popcorn" (featuring Ballard on lead) and "Let Me Go the Right Way". While these songs were regional hits, they were not nationwide successes.

In January 1961, Gordy agreed to sign the group on the condition they change their name. Eventually, Janie Bradford approached Florence Ballard, the only group member at the studio at the time, to pick out a new name for the group. Ballard chose "Supremes", reportedly, because it was the only name on the list that did not end with "ette". Upon hearing the new name, the other members weren't impressed, with Ross telling Ballard she feared the group would be mistaken for a male vocal group (a male vocal group was, indeed, named the Supremes). Gordy signed the group under their name on January 15, 1961.

A year later, Barbara Martin left the group, reducing the quartet to a trio. In late 1963, the group had their first hit with "When the Lovelight Starts Shining Through His Eyes", peaking at number 23 on the Billboard Hot 100 pop chart. At the end of the year, Gordy assigned Ross as the group's lead singer, even though Ballard was usually the lead vocalist.

The group scored their first number-one hit with "Where Did Our Love Go", paving the way for unprecedented success: between August 1964 and May 1967, Ross, Wilson, and Ballard sang on ten number-one hit singles, all of which also made the UK top 40. [13] The group had also become a hit with audiences both domestically and abroad, going on to become Motown's most successful vocal act throughout the sixties. Following significant issues with her comportment, weight, and alcoholism, Florence Ballard was fired from the Supremes by Gordy in July 1967, hiring Cindy Birdsong from Patti LaBelle and the Blue-Bells as Ballard's replacement.

Gordy renamed the group Diana Ross & the Supremes, making it easier to charge a larger performance fee for a solo star and a backing group, as it did for other renamed Motown groups. Gordy initially considered Ross leaving the Supremes for a solo career in 1966 but changed his mind because the group's success was still too significant for Ross to pursue solo obligations. Ross remained with the Supremes until early 1970.

The group appeared as a trio of singing nuns in a 1968 episode of the popular NBC TV series Tarzan. Between their early 1968 single "Forever Came Today" and their final single with Ross, "Someday We'll Be Together", Ross would be the only Supremes member to be featured on many of their recordings, often accompanied by session singers the Andantes or, as in the case of "Someday, We'll Be Together", Julia and Maxine Waters and Johnny Bristol. [15] Still, Wilson and Birdsong continued to sing on recordings.

Gordy drove Ross diligently throughout this period and Ross, due to anxiety arising from Gordy's demands of her, began suffering from anorexia nervosa, according to her autobiography, Secrets of a Sparrow. During a 1967 performance in Boston, Massachusetts, Ross collapsed onstage and had to be hospitalized for exhaustion.

In 1968, Ross began to perform as a solo artist on television specials, including the Supremes' own specials such as TCB and G.I.T. on Broadway, The Dinah Shore Show, and a Bob Hope special, among others. In mid-1969, Gordy decided that Ross would depart the group by the end of that year, and Ross began recording her initial solo work that July. One of the first plans for Ross to establish her own solo career was to publicly introduce a new Motown recording act.

Though she herself did not claim their discovery, Motown's publicity department credited Ross with having discovered the Jackson 5. Ross would introduce the group during several public events, including The Hollywood Palace. [16] In November, Ross confirmed a split from the Supremes in Billboard. Ross' presumed first solo recording, "Someday We'll Be Together", was eventually released as a Supremes recording and became the group's final number-one hit on the Hot 100. It was also the final number-one Billboard Hot 100 single of the 1960s. Ross made her final appearance with the Supremes at the Frontier Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada on January 14, 1970.

Solo career and films: 1970–1980 Edit

In May 1970, Ross released her eponymous solo debut, which included her signature songs, "Reach Out and Touch (Somebody's Hand)" and "Ain't No Mountain High Enough", the latter becoming Ross' first number-one solo single. Follow-up albums, Everything Is Everything and Surrender came out shortly afterwards. In 1971, the ballad "I'm Still Waiting" became her first number-one single in the UK. Later in 1971, Ross starred in her first solo television special, Diana!, which included the Jackson 5.

In 1971, Diana Ross began working on her first film, Lady Sings the Blues, which was a loosely based biography on singer Billie Holiday. Despite some criticism of her for taking the role, once the film opened in October 1972, Ross won critical acclaim for her performance in the film. Jazz critic Leonard Feather, a friend of Holiday's, praised Ross for "expertly capturing the essence of Lady Day". Ross's role in the film won her Golden Globe Award and Academy Award nominations for Best Actress. The soundtrack to Lady Sings the Blues became just as successful, reaching No. 1 on the Billboard 200, staying there for two weeks, and selling two million units.

In 1973, Ross had her second number-one hit in the U.S. with the ballad "Touch Me in the Morning". Later in the year, Motown issued Diana & Marvin, a duet album with fellow Motown artist Marvin Gaye. The album became an international hit. Touring throughout 1973, Ross became the first entertainer in Japan's history to receive an invitation to the Imperial Palace for a private audience with the Empress Nagako, wife of Emperor Hirohito.

In April 1974, Ross became the first African-American woman to co-host the 46th Academy Awards, with John Huston, Burt Reynolds, and David Niven.

After the release of a modestly successful LP, Last Time I Saw Him, Ross's second film, Mahogany, was released in 1975. The film reunited her with Billy Dee Williams, her co-star in Lady Sings the Blues and featured costumes designed by Ross herself. The story of an aspiring fashion designer who becomes a runway model and the toast of the industry, Mahogany was a troubled production from its inception. The film's original director, Tony Richardson, was fired during production, and Berry Gordy assumed the director's chair himself. In addition, Gordy and Ross clashed during filming, with Ross leaving the production before shooting was completed, forcing Gordy to use secretary Edna Anderson as a body double for Ross. While a box-office success, the film was not well received by the critics: Time magazine's review of the film chastised Gordy for "squandering one of America's most natural resources: Diana Ross". [17] Nonetheless, Ross had her third number-one hit in the U.S. with "Theme from Mahogany (Do You Know Where You're Going To)".

A year later, in 1976, Ross released her fourth solo number-one hit, "Love Hangover", a sensual, dramatic mid-tempo song that bursts into an uptempo disco tune. Later that year, Ross launched her "An Evening with Diana Ross" tour. The tour's success led to a two-week stint at Broadway's Palace Theatre and a 90-minute, Emmy-nominated television special of the same name, featuring special make-up effects by Stan Winston, for a scene in which Ross portrayed legendary cabaret artist Josephine Baker and blues singers Bessie Smith and Ethel Waters, [18] and a Special Tony Award. [19]

The albums Baby It's Me (1977) and Ross (1978) sold modestly.

In 1977, Motown had acquired the film rights to the Broadway play The Wiz, an African-American reinterpretation of L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The film initially was to include the stage actors who had performed on the play, but, producer Rob Cohen could not garner the interest of any major Hollywood film studios. It was not until Ross convinced Cohen to cast her (instead of Stephanie Mills, who portrayed Dorothy on Broadway) as Dorothy that Universal Pictures agreed to finance the production. This casting decision led to a change in the film's script, in which Dorothy went from a schoolgirl to a schoolteacher. The role of the Scarecrow, also performed by someone else onstage, was eventually given to Ross's former Motown labelmate, Michael Jackson. Ross and Jackson had a modest dance hit with their recording for the film of "Ease on Down the Road". Their second duet, actually as part of the ensemble of The Wiz, "Brand New Day", found some success overseas.

The film adaptation of The Wiz had been a $24 million production, but upon its October 1978 release, it earned only $21,049,053 at the box office. [20] [21] [22] Though pre-release television broadcast rights had been sold to CBS for over $10 million, the film produced a net loss of $10.4 million for Motown and Universal. [21] [22] At the time, it was the most expensive film musical ever made. [23] The film's failure ended Ross's short career on the big screen and contributed to the Hollywood studios' reluctance to produce the all-black film projects which had become popular during the blaxploitation era of the early to mid-1970s for several years. [24] [25] [26]

In 1979, Ross released The Boss, continuing her popularity with dance audiences, as the title song became a number-one dance single. On July 16, 1979, Ross guest-hosted an episode of Johnny Carson's The Tonight Show, featuring Lynda Carter, George Carlin, and Muhammad Ali as guests. [27] Later that year, Ross hosted the HBO special, Standing Room Only, filmed at Caesar's Palace's Circus Maximus Theater in Las Vegas, Nevada, during her "Tour '79" concert tour. [28] This concert special is noted for its opening, during which Ross literally makes her entrance through a movie screen. In November of that year, Ross performed The Boss album's title track as a featured artist during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, in New York City. [29]

In 1980, Ross released her most successful album to date, Diana. Composed by Chic's Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards, the album included the hits "I'm Coming Out" and "Upside Down", the latter becoming her fifth chart-topping single in the U.S.

Ross scored a Top 10 hit in late 1980 with the theme song to the film It's My Turn Continuing her connections with Hollywood, Ross recorded the duet ballad "Endless Love", with Lionel Richie. The song would become her sixth and final single to reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100, and the number-two record of the year. [30] [ citation needed ]

Leaving Motown and RCA years: 1981–1987 Edit

Ross began negotiations to leave Motown at the end of 1980. After over 20 years with the label, Ross received US$250,000 as severance. RCA Records offered Ross a $20 million, seven-year recording contract, which gave her complete production control of her albums. Allegedly, before signing onto the label, Ross asked Berry Gordy if he could match RCA's offer. Gordy stated that doing so was "impossible". Ross then signed with RCA on May 20, 1981. At the time, Ross's was music history's most expensive recording deal.

In October 1981, Ross released her first RCA album, Why Do Fools Fall in Love. The album sold over a million copies and featured hit singles such as her remake of the classic hit of the same name and "Mirror Mirror". Shortly thereafter, Ross established her production company, named Anaid Productions ("Diana" spelled backwards), and also began investing in real estate and touring extensively in the United States and abroad.

Before the release of Why Do Fools Fall in Love, Ross hosted her first TV special in four years, Diana. Directed by Steve Binder, the concert portions of the special were filmed at Inglewood, California's 17,500-seat The Forum indoor stadium and featured performances by Michael Jackson, Muhammad Ali, Dallas actor Larry Hagman, music impresario Quincy Jones and members of The Joffrey Ballet. [31] [32]

In early 1982, Ross sang the "Star-Spangled Banner" at Super Bowl XVI [33] and appeared on the dance show Soul Train. [34] The program devoted a full episode to her and Ross performed several songs from the Why Do Fools Fall in Love album.

On May 6, 1982, Ross was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. [35] She followed up the success of Why Do Fools Fall in Love with Silk Electric, which featured the Michael Jackson-written and -produced "Muscles", resulting in another top-ten success for Ross. The album eventually went gold on the strength of that song. In 1983, Ross ventured further out of her earlier soul-based sound for a more pop rock-oriented sound following the release of the Ross album. Though the album featured the top 40 hit single, "Pieces of Ice", the Ross album did not generate any more hits or achieve gold status.

On July 21, 1983, Ross performed a free concert on Central Park's Great Lawn, aired live worldwide by Showtime. Proceeds of the concert would be donated to build a playground in the singer's name. Midway through the beginning of the show, a torrential downpour began. Ross tried to continue performing, but, the severe weather required that the show be stopped after 45 minutes. Ross urged the large crowd to exit the venue safely, promising to perform the next day.

The second concert held the very next day was without rain. The funds for the playground were to be derived from sales of various memorabilia. However, they were destroyed by the storm. When the mainstream media discovered the exorbitant costs of the two concerts, Ross faced criticism from New York City's then-mayor Ed Koch and the city's Parks Department commissioner and poor publicity. During a subsequent mayoral press conference, Ross handed Koch a check for US$250,000 for the project. [36] The Diana Ross Playground was built three years later. [37]

In 1984, Ross released Swept Away. The album featured All of You, a duet with friend Julio Iglesias. The single was featured on both Ross' album and Iglesias' 1100 Bel Air Place, his first English-language album. It became an international hit, as did the Lionel Richie-penned ballad "Missing You", composed as a tribute to Marvin Gaye, who had died earlier that year. Swept Away garnered gold record sales status.

Her 1985 album, Eaten Alive, found major success overseas. "Chain Reaction" reached number one on the UK charts as well as in Australia and Ireland and the title track also performed well. Both songs had strong music videos that propelled the tracks to success. The Eaten Alive video was patterned after the 1960s horror film, The Island of Dr. Moreau while the "Chain Reaction" music video saluted the 1960s American Bandstand-style music shows. "Experience", the third international single's video reignited the "Eaten Alive" romantic storyline with Diana and actor Joseph Gian. The track, "Eaten Alive," a collaboration with Barry Gibb and Michael Jackson, became a top 20 hit internationally.

The Barry Gibb-produced album garnered an international number one in "Chain Reaction" and a Top 20 selling album. It is believed Michael Finbarr Murphy, a distant cousin of Alan Murphy, guitarist for singer Kate Bush, Level 42 and others, played the guitar parts on "Chain Reaction". Michael was the producer for Unknown Quantity, the backing vocalists featured on the "Chain Reaction" track, are also featured as Ross' backing singers in the track's video. There were four members of Unknown Quantity, however, only 3 were needed for the video.

Earlier in 1985, Ross appeared as part of USA for Africa's '"We Are the World"' charity single, which sold over 20 million copies worldwide. Ross's 1987 follow-up to Eaten Alive, Red Hot Rhythm & Blues (No. 39 Billboard Top R&B Albums chart No. 12 Sweden), found less success than the prior album. The accompanying acclaimed television special was nominated for three Emmy Awards, winning two (Outstanding Costume Design for a Variety or Music Program - Ray Aghayan and Ret Turner Outstanding Lighting Direction (Electronic) for a Miniseries or a Special - Greg Brunton). [38] [39]

On January 27, 1986, Ross hosted the 13th annual American Music Awards. [40] Ross returned the next year to host the 14th annual telecast. [41]

Return to Motown: 1988–1999 Edit

In 1988, Ross chose to not renew her RCA contract and had been in talks with her former mentor Berry Gordy to return to Motown. When she learned of Gordy's plans to sell Motown, Ross tried advising him against the decision, though he ended up selling it to MCA Records in June of that year. Following the sale of the company, Ross was asked to return to the Motown label with the condition that she have shares in the company as a part-owner Ross accepted the offer.

That same year, Ross was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Supremes alongside her former singing partners Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard. She also recorded the theme song to The Land Before Time. "If We Hold on Together" became an international hit, reaching number one in Japan.

Ross' next album, 1989's Workin' Overtime was not a commercial success, despite the title track reaching the top three of the Billboard ' s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. [42] The album peaked at number 34 on the Billboard Hot R&B Albums chart, and achieved top 25 placings in Japan and the UK, attaining a silver certification in the latter country. Subsequent releases, such as The Force Behind the Power (1991), Take Me Higher (1995), and Every Day Is a New Day (1999) produced similar results, achieving more international than domestic success.

In 1991, Ross became one of the few American artists to have headlined the annual Royal Variety Performance, performing a selection of her UK hits before Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh at the Victoria Palace Theatre, London. [43] This marked her second appearance at the Royal Variety Performance, the first being in 1968 with the Supremes.

"The Force Behind the Power" sparked an international comeback of sorts when the album went double platinum in the UK. [44] led by the No. 2 UK hit single "When You Tell Me That You Love Me". The single's duet version with Irish group, Westlife, also hit No. 2 in the UK in 2005. The album performed well across Europe and into Japan as "The Force Behind the Power" achieved Gold record status in the nation. The album produced an astounding 9 singles across international territories, including another Top 10 hit, "One Shining Moment".

In 1993, Ross returned to acting with a dramatic role in the television film, Out of Darkness. Ross won acclaim for her role in the TV movie and earned her third Golden Globe nomination, although she did not win.

In 1994, One Woman: The Ultimate Collection, a career retrospective compilation, became a number one hit in the UK, selling quadruple platinum, and selling well across Europe and in the English-speaking world. The retrospective was EMI's alternative to Motown's box set Forever Diana: Musical Memoirs.

Ross performed during the Opening Ceremony of the 1994 FIFA World Cup held in Chicago, where she infamously missed a penalty kick that was part of her act, and during the pre-match entertainment of the 1995 Rugby League World Cup final at Wembley Stadium. [45]

On January 28, 1996, Ross performed at the Super Bowl XXX halftime show, held at the Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona. [46] Earlier that month, Ross' Tokyo concert, "Diana Ross: Live In Japan" filmed live at the city's Nippon Bodukan Stadium, was released. [47]

In May 1996, Ross received the World Music Awards' Lifelong Contribution to the Music Industry Award. [48] On November 29, EMI released the compilation album, Voice of Love, featuring the singles "In the Ones You Love", "You Are Not Alone" and "I Hear (The Voice of Love)". [49]

On February 8, 1997, EMI released the Japanese edition of Ross' album, A Gift of Love, featuring the single, "Promise Me You'll Try". [50] In May, she performed with operatic tenors Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras again at the Superconcert of the Century concert, held in Taipei, Taiwan. [51] She later inducted The Jackson 5 into The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame on May 6. [52]

On February 19, 1998, Ross hosted the Motown 40 telecast on ABC. [53] In 1999, Ross was named the most successful female singer in the history of the United Kingdom charts, based upon a tally of her career hits. Madonna would soon succeed Ross as the most successful female artist in the UK. Later that year, Ross presented at the 1999 MTV Video Music Awards in September of the year and shocked the audience by touching rapper Lil' Kim's exposed breast and pasty-covered nipple, amazed at the young rapper's brashness. [54]

In 1999, she and Brandy Norwood co-starred in the television movie, Double Platinum, which was aired prior to the release of Ross's album, Every Day Is a New Day.

Supremes reunion: 2000–2003 Edit

Ross reunited with Mary Wilson first in 1976 to attend the funeral service of Florence Ballard, who had died in February of that year. In March 1983, Ross agreed to reunite with Wilson and Cindy Birdsong for the television special "Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever". The Supremes did not rehearse their performance for that evening, due to time constraints. A scheduled medley of hits was cancelled.

Instead of following producer Suzanne dePasse's instructions to recreate their choreography from their final Ed Sullivan Show appearance, Wilson (according to her autobiography) planned with Birdsong to take a step forward every time Ross did the same, then began to sing lead on the group's final number-one hit song, "Someday We'll Be Together", on which Wilson did not perform.

Later, Wilson introduced Berry Gordy from the stage (unaware that the program's script called for Ross to introduce Gordy), at which point Ross subtly pushed down Wilson's hand-held microphone, stating, "It's been taken care of." Ross then re-introduced Gordy. [55] [56] These moments were excised from the final edit of the taped special, but still made their way into the news media People magazine reported that "Ross [did] some elbowing to get Wilson out of the spotlight." [57]

In 1999, Ross and mega-tour promoter SFX (which later became LiveNation) began negotiations regarding a Diana Ross tour which would include a Supremes segment. During negotiations with Ross, the promoters considered the creation of a Supremes tour, instead. Ross agreed. As the tour's co-producer, Ross invited all living former Supremes to participate. Neither Jean Terrell nor late 1970s member Susaye Greene chose to participate. 70s Supremes Lynda Laurence and Scherrie Payne were then touring as Former Ladies of the Supremes.

Ross contacted Mary Wilson and Cindy Birdsong, who then began negotiations with SFX. Negotiations with Wilson and Birdsong (who allowed Wilson to negotiate on her behalf) failed when Wilson refused SFX's and Ross' offer of $4 Million for 30 performances. Following the passage of SFX's final deadline for Wilson to accept their offer. Payne and Laurence, already negotiating with SFX, signed on to perform with Ross on the tour.

Laurence and Payne would later say that they got along well with Ross. The newly formed group performed together on The Today Show and The Oprah Winfrey Show, as well as VH1's Divas 2000: A tribute To Diana Ross. The Return to Love tour launched in June 2000, to a capacity audience in Philadelphia. The tour's final performance was at New York City's Madison Square Garden. The tour was cancelled by SFX shortly thereafter, due to mediocre ticket sales, despite glowing reviews from media as varied as Billboard magazine, The Detroit Free Press, the Los Angeles Times and The Village Voice newspapers.

On December 5, 2000, Ross received a Heroes Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences (NARAS). The Heroes Award is the highest distinction bestowed by the New York Chapter. [58]

Diana Ross' first public post-RTL appearance was at a fundraiser for former President Bill Clinton. In January 2001, "Love & Life: The Very Best of Diana Ross" was released in the United Kingdom, becoming Ross' 17th gold album in that country. In June, Ross presented costume designer Bob Mackie with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the American Fashion Awards.

Two days before the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Ross performed "God Bless America" at the U.S. Open tennis championships before the tournament's women's final, between Venus and Serena Williams. Immediately following the attacks, Ross performed the song again at Shea Stadium, before the Mets first game, after driving cross-country to be with her children (in the wake of the attacks, flying in the U.S. was temporarily restricted.). [59] Ross teamed with legendary singers Patti LaBelle, Eartha Kitt among others for a Nile Rodgers-produced recording of Sister Sledge's classic disco hit, "We Are Family", recorded to benefit the families of 9/11 victims.

In May 2002, Ross and all five of her children appeared on Barbara Walters' Mother's Day television special. Shortly thereafter, Ross admitted herself into the 30-day substance abuse program at the Promises Institute in Malibu, California, after friends and family began to notice a burgeoning alcohol problem. Ross left the program three weeks later and began to fulfill previously scheduled concert dates, beginning with a performance before a 60,000-strong crowd at London's Hyde Park, for Prince Charles' Prince's Trust charity.

U.S. ticket sales for the new tour were brisk, from coast to coast. Venues such as Long Island, New York's Westbury Music Fair and California's Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts and Humphrey's Concerts by the Bay attempted to add extra shows, due to public demand. Sold-out performances in Boston and Ontario, Canada, followed. In August, shortly after the tour began, however, Ross re-entered the Promises Institute's substance abuse rehabilitation program. That December, during her stay at Arizona's Canyon Ranch Health Resort, Ross was pulled over by Tucson police for driving the wrong way on a one-way street. She failed a breathalizer test and was arrested for a DUI. Ross was later sentenced to 48 hours in jail, which she served near her home in Greenwich, Connecticut.

In January 2003, Ross was honored as Humanitarian of the Year by Nile Rodgers' We Are Family Foundation. Shortly thereafter, Ross was feted as an honored guest at the National Association of Black-Owned Broadcasters Awards. Later that year, Ross was the guest performer at that year's Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute's annual gala, in an ensemble custom-designed by designer Tom Ford, followed by an appearance as the surprise celebrity model for American couturier Dennis Basso's runway show.

In February 2003, The Supremes were honored by The Rhythm & Blues Foundation honored The Supremes with its Pioneer Award. [60]

Later career: 2004–present Edit

In May 2004, Ross and daughter Tracee Ellis Ross appeared on the cover of Essence Magazine, in celebration of its 50th anniversary. [61] On December 8, 2004, Ross was the featured performer for Stevie Wonder's Billboard Awards' Billboard Century Award tribute. [62]

On January 14, 2005, Ross performed at the Tsunami Aid: A Concert of Hope TV concert to help raise money for Indonesian tsunami victims. [63] On January 20, 2005, Ross launched her M.A.C. Icon makeup collection, as part of the beauty corporation's Icon Series. [64] In 2005, Ross participated in Rod Stewart's Thanks for the Memory: The Great American Songbook, Volume IV recording a duet version of the Gershwin standard, "I've Got a Crush on You". The song was released as promotion for the album and later reached number 19 on the Billboard Hot Adult Contemporary chart, marking her first Billboard chart entry since 2000. [65] Ross was featured in another hit duet, this time with Westlife, on a cover of Ross's 1991 hit "When You Tell Me You Love Me", repeating the original recording's chart success, garnering a number 2 UK Singles Chart hit (number 1 in Ireland).

Also in 2005, Ross was featured as an honored guest at Oprah Winfrey's Legends Ball Weekend, a three-day celebration honoring 25 African-American women in art, entertainment and civil rights. On May 22, 2006, a year after the celebration, a one-hour program about the weekend aired on ABC, including celebrity interviews and behind-the-scenes moments. [66] On March 22, 2006, Ross' televised Central Park concerts, entitled "For One & for All", are named TV Land Awards' Viewer's Choice for Television's Greatest Music Moment. [67]

In June 2006, Universal released Ross's shelved 1972 Blue album. It peaked at number two on Billboard ' s jazz albums chart. [68] Later in 2006, Ross released her first studio album in seven years with I Love You. It would be released on EMI/Manhattan Records in the United States in January 2007. [69] EMI Inside later reported the album had sold more than 622,000 copies worldwide. "I Love You" peaked at No. 32 on Billboard ' s Hot 200 albums chart [70] and No. 16 on Billboard ' s Top R&B Albums chart. Ross later ventured on a world tour to promote I Love You. In 2007, Ross was honored with the BET Awards' Lifetime Achievement Award and, later, as one of the honorees at the Kennedy Center Honors.

On August 28, 2008, Ross performed at the opening of the US Open tennis tournament, as part of a tribute to Billie Jean King. [71] [72] Ross headlined the 2008 Nobel Peace Prize Concert in Oslo, Norway. [73] [74]

In October 2009, Ross was the featured performer at the annual "Symphonica in Rosso" concert series, held at the GelreDome Stadium in Arnhem, Netherlands. [75]

In 2010, Ross embarked on her first headlining tour in three years titled the More Today Than Yesterday: The Greatest Hits Tour. Dedicated to the memory of her late friend Michael Jackson, the concert tour garnered positive reviews, nationwide. [76]

In 2011, Diana Ross was inducted into the Michigan Rock and Roll Legends Hall of Fame. [77]

In February 2012, Ross received her first Grammy Award, for Lifetime Achievement, and announced the nominees for the Album of the Year. [78] In May, a DVD of her Central Park concert performances, For One & For All, was released and featured commentary from Steve Binder, who directed the special. A month later, on December 9, she performed as the marquee and headlining performer at the White House-hosted Christmas in Washington concert, where she performed before President Barack Obama. The event was later broadcast as an annual special on TNT. In 2013, Ross completed a tour in South America and a tour in the United States. On July 3, 2014, Ross was awarded the Ella Fitzgerald Award for "her extraordinary contribution to contemporary jazz vocals", at the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal. On November 20, 2014, Ross presented the Dick Clark Award for Excellence to Taylor Swift at the American Music Awards.

In 2015, Ross appeared in the video for the song "How to Live Alone" performed by her son Evan Ross. On April 1, 2015, Ross began the first of nine performances as a part of her mini-residency, The Essential Diana Ross: Some Memories Never Fade at The Venetian in Las Vegas, Nevada. [79] [80] On November 27, 2015, Motown Records/Universal released the album Diana Ross Sings Songs from The Wiz, recorded in 1978. The album features Ross' versions of songs from the film version of the musical The Wiz, in which she starred along with Michael Jackson, Nipsey Russell, Ted Ross, Richard Pryor and Lena Horn.

In February 2016, Ross resumed her In the Name of Love Tour, which began in 2013. On November 22, 2016, Ross was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama. [81]

In December 2016, Billboard magazine named her the 50th most successful dance club artist of all time. [82]

On June 30, 2017, Ross headlined the Essence Festival in New Orleans, Louisiana, with her daughter Rhonda Ross-Kendrick performing as the opening act. [83] [84] On November 19, 2017, Ross received the American Music Awards Lifetime Achievement Award. [85] Ross performed several of her hits, ending with "Ain't No Mountain High Enough", during which she brought all of her grandchildren onstage. Her eldest grandson, eight-year-old Raif-Henok Emmanuel Kendrick, son of Rhonda Ross-Kendrick and husband, Rodney, performed an impromptu dance behind Ross, which gained attention. [86] Ross was then joined onstage by all of her children, their spouses, first ex-husband Robert Ellis, Smokey Robinson (who brought Ross to Motown) and Motown founder, Berry Gordy.

In December 2017, Ross appeared on the Home Shopping Network to promote her first fragrance, Diamond Diana. [87] The fragrance sold out within hours. Ross made several hour-long appearances on the network, and also released a tie-in CD retrospective collection of her music entitled Diamond Diana. Diamond Diana peaked at number six on the Billboard R&B Albums chart [88] and number five on its Top Album Sales chart. [89] The CD's first single release, "Ain't No Mountain High Enough 2017", remixed by Eric Kupper, reached number one on the Billboard Dance Club Songs chart. [90]

On February 8, 2018, Ross began a new mini-residency at The Wynn Las Vegas Hotel & Casino. [91] On August 4, 2018, Ross scored another No. 1 hit on Billboard's Top Dance Chart with "I'm Coming Out/Upside Down 2018" [92] She performed a song from a to-be-released compilation Christmas album at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on November 22, 2018. [93]

In December 2018, Diana Ross consolidated her status as a dance diva by ranking #3 in the Billboard Dance Club Songs Artists year-end chart. [94]

On February 10, 2019, the Recording Academy honored Ross at the 61st Annual Grammy Awards. [95] Ross performed "The Best Years of My Life" and "Reach Out and Touch (Somebody's Hand)". In 2019 her song "The Boss" was remixed by Eric Kupper as "The Boss 2019", and reached number one on Billboard's Top Dance Chart on April 13. [96]

On October 10, 2019, it was announced that Diana Ross would play the Sunday legends slot on the Pyramid Stage at the Glastonbury Festival for the festival's 50th anniversary however, the festival was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In May 2020, Diana Ross released "Supertonic: Mixes", a collection of nine of her greatest hits remixed by Eric Kupper and featuring her four back-to-back No.1 hits on Billboard Dance Club Songs chart: "Ain't No Mountain High Enough 2017", "I'm Coming Out / Upside Down 2018", "The Boss 2019", and "Love Hangover 2020". In July 2020, "Supertonic: Mixes" was also released on CD and crystal-clear vinyl LP.

Ross will release her twenty-fifth studio album Thank You in September 2021. It was written and recorded during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown and contains her first original material since 1999's Every Day Is a New Day. [97]

Relationships and family Edit

Ross has been married twice and has five children.

Ross became romantically involved with Motown CEO Berry Gordy in 1965. The relationship lasted several years, resulting in the birth of Ross's eldest child, Rhonda Suzanne Silberstein, in August 1971. Two months into her pregnancy with Rhonda, in January 1971, Ross married music executive Robert Ellis Silberstein, [98] who raised Rhonda as his own daughter, despite knowing her true paternity. Ross told Rhonda that Gordy was her biological father when Rhonda was 13 years old. Beforehand, Rhonda referred to Gordy as "Uncle B.B."

Ross has two daughters with Silberstein, Tracee Joy and Chudney Lane Silberstein, born in 1972 and 1975, respectively. [99] Ross and Silberstein divorced in 1977, [100] and Ross moved to New York City in the early 1980s, after living in Los Angeles since Motown relocated to the area in the early 1970s. [ citation needed ]

Ross dated Gene Simmons, bass guitarist and singer for the band Kiss, from 1980 to 1983. [101] They began dating after Cher, who had remained friends with Simmons following their break-up, suggested he ask Ross to help him choose her Christmas present. Simmons, in his autobiography, contends that he was not dating Cher when he met Ross. Ross ended her relationship with Simmons when he gave Ross the erroneous impression that he had resumed his relationship with Cher. Simmons' story differed in 2015 when he revealed that he fell in love with Ross while dating Cher, which ended Ross and Cher's friendship. [102]

Ross met her second husband, Norwegian shipping magnate Arne Næss Jr., in 1985, and married him the following year. She became stepmother to his three elder children Katinka, Christoffer, and folk singer Leona Naess. They have two sons together: Ross Arne (born in 1987) [ citation needed ] and Evan Olav (born in 1988). Ross and Næss divorced in 2000, after press reports revealed that Naess had fathered a child with another woman in Norway. [103] Ross considers Næss the love of her life. [104] Næss fell to his death in a South African mountain climbing accident in 2004. [105] Ross remains close with her three ex-stepchildren.

Ross has seven grandchildren: grandson Raif-Henok (born in 2009 to her daughter Rhonda) grandsons Leif (born on June 5, 2016) and Idingo (born 2017), born to her son Ross Næss [106] granddaughters Callaway Lane (born in 2012) and Everlee (born October 2019) born to Ross's daughter Chudney [107] granddaughter Jagger Snow (born in 2015), and grandson Ziggy (born in 2020) to her son Evan. [108] [109]

Religious views Edit

Diana Ross considers herself a Baptist. [110] She used to sing in a church, where she gained her initial musical experience. [111] Her mother Ernestine's father, Reverend William Moten, served as a pastor in the Bessemer Baptist Church in Bessemer, Alabama. Diana and her siblings spent considerable time with their maternal grandparents during their mother's bouts with tuberculosis. [112]

2002 arrest Edit

Diana Ross was arrested for DUI on December 30, 2002, in Tucson, Arizona, while undergoing substance abuse treatment at a local rehabilitation facility. [113] She later served a two-day sentence near her Connecticut estate. [114]

Various works have been inspired by Ross's career and life. The character of Deena Jones in both the play and film versions of Dreamgirls was inspired by Ross. [120]

Several of Ross's songs have been covered and sampled. "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" has been featured in the film Chicken Little. The song has also been covered live and on albums by Jennifer Lopez, Amy Winehouse. Janet Jackson sampled "Love Hangover" on her 1997 song "My Need" (featured on the album The Velvet Rope), having already sampled "Love Child" and "Someday We'll Be Together" by Ross & the Supremes on her 1993 tracks "You Want This" and "If" (both released as singles from the janet. album). "Love Hangover" was also sampled in Monica's 1998 number 1 "The First Night" as well as being sampled by Will Smith, Master P (who also sampled "Missing You"), Heavy D and Bone Thugs N Harmony, "It's Your Move" was sampled in 2011 by Vektroid for her song "Lisa Frank 420 / Modern Computing", which appeared in her ninth album Floral Shoppe under her one-time alias Macintosh Plus. "It's My House" was sampled by Lady Gaga for her song "Replay" which appeared on the 2020 album Chromatica.

Motown: The Musical is a Broadway musical that launched on April 14, 2013. It is the story of Berry Gordy's creation of Motown Records and his romance with Diana Ross.

As a member of the Supremes, her songs "Stop! In the Name of Love" and "You Can't Hurry Love" are among the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll. [121] They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988, received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1994, and entered into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 1998. In 2004, Rolling Stone placed the group at number 96 on their list of the "100 Greatest Artists of All Time". [122]

As lead singer of the Supremes and as a solo artist, Ross has earned 18 number-one singles (12 as lead singer of the Supremes and 6 as a solo artist). Ross is the only female artist to have number one singles as a solo artist as the other half of a duet (Lionel Richie) as a member of a trio (the Supremes) and, as an ensemble member ("We Are the World" by USA for Africa). Ross was featured on the Notorious B.I.G.'s 1997 number-one hit "Mo Money Mo Problems" since her voice from her 1980 hit "I'm Coming Out" was sampled for the song.

Billboard magazine named Ross the "female entertainer of the century" in 1976. In October 1993, Diana Ross was inducted in the Guinness Book Of World Records, as "the most successful female music artist in history" due to her success in the United States and United Kingdom for having more hits than any other female artist in the charts with a career total of 70 hit singles. Ross is also one of the few recording artists to have two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame—one as a solo artist and the other as a member of the Supremes. After her 1983 concert in Central Park, Diana Ross Playground was named in her honor with a groundbreaking opening ceremony in 1986.

Ross was given credit for the discovery of the Jackson 5, although her "discovery" was simply part of Motown's marketing and promotions plan for the Jackson 5. Consequently, their debut album was titled Diana Ross Presents the Jackson 5. It was actually Motown producer Bobby Taylor who discovered the Jacksons. [123] Even so, Ross embraced the role and became a good friend of Michael Jackson, serving as a mother figure to him. [124]

In 2006, Ross was one of 25 African-American women saluted at Oprah Winfrey's Legends Ball, a three-day celebration, honoring their contributions to art, entertainment, and civil rights.

On November 16, 2016, Ross was announced as one of the 21 recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor. [125]

The Story Behind The Song: The Supremes’ Motown classic ‘Stop! In The Name Of Love’

The name of The Supremes will always go down the history of music as the first group to reach the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 not twice, not thrice but for five times consecutively. The secret of their back-to-back achievements, was their managing label, the Motown Records. Founded in the 1960s, The Supremes were an all-girl band, whose members were shuffled for quite a few times, making the trio of Diana Ross, Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard the most popular grouping of all time.

The trio, also known as Diana Ross and the Supremes, was in fact so popular during the mid-1960s, that they rivalled The Beatles for albums sales and general fan feverishness. The chief of Motown, Berry Gordy, and Maxine Powell planned to represent the group as a glamorous trio, embracing their femininity instead of imitating male groups’ qualities. Powell even went on to suggest the group to be ready “to perform before kings and queens.” With proper representation and marketing, the group raced to the top in no time, paving the way to mainstream success for the future R&B and Soul musicians.

With three number one hits ‘Where Did Our Love Go,’ ‘Baby Love’ and ‘Come See About Me,’ the trio was indeed, reigning supreme. The fourth and most defining song to follow was ‘Stop! In The Name Of Love’ and it came as a declaration of their omnipotent status. Released in February 1965, it conquered the charts within five weeks. Though it lost the 1966 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Rock & Roll Group Vocal Performance to ‘Flowers on the Wall’ by the Statler Brothers, its legacy remains unparalleled.

Penned by the Motown songwriting team Lamont Dozier, Eddie Holland and Brian Holland, popularly known as Holland/Dozier/Holland, the title of the song is a unique twist on the common phrase ‘Stop in the name of law’. The lyrical trio was indeed lucky for the label and The Supremes, as they delivered successive commercial hits. The label naturally decided to stick to the formula in order to score another hit while producing ‘Stop! In The Name Of Love’.

As the story goes, the song’s hook line was uttered by Dozier during an argument with his girlfriend, when she caught him cheating. In the heated verbal war, Dozier said, “Baby, please stop. In the name of love – before you break my heart.” However, his cheesy dialogue didn’t quite do the trick. Sensing an inevitable break-up, he then asked his girlfriend to “think it over.” When the fight ceased for the day, unfortunately for his girlfriend and fortunately for The Supremes, the only thing that Dozier pondered about was the phrase “Stop in the name of love.” His artistic instinct rose above his personal troubles as he started to consider using the phrase in a song.

Dozier later detailed the backstory of the song saying that he was having a tryst at a “no-tell motel” when his girlfriend discovered his infidelity and reached the venue, banging the door furiously around 2 a.m. Dozier slipped his companion through the bathroom window before answering the door. He tried to spin a story as his girlfriend went “screaming and carrying on,” that he was tired because of the late hours spent in the studio working, and crashed into the motel for rest. Any person with common intelligence would have detected the lie, and so did his girlfriend. Unable to argue reasonably anymore, Dozier mouthed his final plea “Stop in the name of love,” hoping that it would melt his beloved’s heart. Instead, he got a stone-cold look from his girlfriend. Apparently, this girl came back to him after the song’s immense success.

Dozier twisted the perspective of the line for the song. The lead vocalist Diana Ross confronts her man in the song, telling him that she knows about his fling. But interestingly, instead of threatening him or adopting any violent measures, she appeals to him saying “(Think it over)/ After I’ve been good to you/ (Think it over)/ After I’ve been sweet to you.” Continuing her plea, she says “Stop in the name of love/Before you break my heart.” This might look like a weak measure to a modern-day woman, as it allows the man in question to get away with a major breach of trust, disregarding a woman’s self-respect and value. Keeping the times, during which the song was released, in mind, we might consider the probability of the songwriters trying to portray the common scenario of that era — a time when women were not that outspoken in their personal relationships. An otherwise problematic stance, this should not be the anthem of love.

The melodic and rhythmic track features Earl Van Dyke in a Hammond organ that opens the song, followed by Wilson and Ballard breaking out in a sudden chorus, bleating “Stop!” Ross joins in much later in the verse. An interesting observation, though the situation is tense, demanding an emotional rendition, Ross’s delivery is calm, collected and almost clinical. This can be interpreted in many ways including the fact that though it is a plea on paper, Ross conveys it as a demand or order to be followed.

Whether you’ve fallen in love with The Supremes and their song or can now see it as a slightly sordid tune, it is still almost impossible to avoid tapping one’s foot along to.

Diana Ross and the Supremes perform their final concert - HISTORY

Someday We'll Be Together


This was originally recorded by the duo Johnny & Jackey (Johnny Bristol and Jackey Beavers) in 1961. Their version went nowhere, and the duo were defunct a short time later.

The song was revived in 1969 when Motown Records brought in Bristol to produce a new version for Jr. Walker & the All-Stars as a follow-up to their hit "What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)." Bristol recorded the track with Motown's famed Funk Brothers house band and added backing vocals using singers at the label, along with the sisters Maxine and Julia Waters. But Walker never got to record it. The Supremes were about to break up, and Motown needed a big hit to launch Diana Ross' solo career. Increasingly desperate, label head Berry Gordy decided to give "Someday We'll Be Together" to Ross instead of Walker. She added her lead vocal to the track, but Gordy decided it was better suited as the final Supremes single with Ross instead of her debut. The Supremes needed a big finale to close out their Diana Ross era, move forward as a group, and send off Ross as a solo artist, and that's exactly what the song did, even though Ross was the only group member to appear on it.

Released on October 14, 1969, "Someday We'll Be Together" quickly rose up the charts. Ross announced she was leaving The Supremes in November, and on December 27, it hit #1 on the Hot 100, giving the group one last chart-topper, bringing their total to 12.

This song served as Diana Ross' send-off from The Supremes. They performed it last at their final concert: a midnight show at the Frontier Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas on January 14, 1970 (technically January 15 once the clock struck midnight). Motown royalty like Marvin Gaye and Smokey Robinson were in the crowd, along with celebrities like Johnny Carson and Dick Clark. The night was dedicated to Ross and orchestrated to launch her solo career. The Supremes soldiered on with various lineups until 1977, but never returned to their past glory Ross became one of the biggest stars of the '70s, landing a #1 with her second single, "Ain't No Mountain High Enough."

The Frontier show was recorded and released as a live double album called Farewell, with some tracks taken from previous shows during their run.

Diana Ross performed with The Supremes just once after her departure, singing this song with Wilson and Birdsong at the Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever special, fulfilling the prophesy in the lyric. The show ended with the Motown acts that performed earlier - The Temptations, Smokey Robinson and Michael Jackson among them - taking the stage and singing along.

The show drew a huge audience and revived interest in The Supremes. A reunion was planned, but scrapped when Wilson refused to accept far less than what Ross was slated.

This song has one of the most prominent string sections of any Motown track. That part was overdubbed after the basic track was recorded in a session where 11 guys played together.

The guitarist on this session was Dennis Coffey, who later had his own hit with "Scorpio." Speaking with Songfacts, Coffey said: "On that song, I'm doing the vibrato sound with the guitar and then I switch to backbeats later on. They had good arrangers at Motown, like Paul Riser or David Van DePitte. So, when you go into the studio, there's usually the arranger and the producer. We would have the charts in front of us, so we would have to read the chart correctly first and then they kind of massaged it based upon us playing licks for them that they liked and stuff like that."

Comments: 13

  • Barry from Sauquoit, Ny Exactly fifty years ago today on December 21st, 1969 "Someday We'll Be Together"* by Diana Ross and the Supremes peaked at #1 on Billboard's Top 100 chart.
    The rest of the Top 10 on December 21st, 1969:
    At #2. "Leaving On A Jet Plane" by Peter, Paul and Mary .
    #3. "Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head" by B.J. Thomas
    #4. "Down On The Corner/Fortunate Son" by Creedence Clearwater Revival
    #5. "Nan Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye" by Steam
    #6. "Holly Holy" by Neil Diamond
    #7. "Come Together/"Something" by The Beatles
    #8. "I Want You Back" by the Jackson 5
    #9. "Whole Lotta Love/Living Loving Maid (She’s Just a Woman)" by Led Zeppelin
    #10. "Take A Letter Maria" by R.B. Greaves
    * And "Someday We'll Be Together" also reached #1 on Billboard's Hot R&B Singles chart.
    As noted above, "Someday We'll Be Together" was the trio's twelfth and final #1 record on the Top 100 chart, and Diana Ross' last charted record as a member of the Supremes.
    Personal note: On June 6th, 1991 Diana Ross appeared in concert at the Stanley Theater in Utica, NY my wife wanted to go but I wasn't very keen on the idea. But now I'm glad that I went, she put on a great show, and there was a young male fan in the audience and he had with him a bunch of Supreme albums, he caught Ms. Ross' eye and she called him up on stage and signed each album while the audience applauded and cheered.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, Ny On February 15th 1970, the 'new' Supremes, with its new lineup of Cindy Birdsong, Mary Wilson, & Diana Ross' replacement, Jean Terrel, performed "Up the Latter to the Roof" on the CBS-TV program 'The Ed Sullivan Show'.
    Exactly two weeks later on March 1st the song entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #57 six weeks later on April 12th it would peak at #10 and it stayed on the chart for 11 weeks.
    It reached #5 on Billboard's R&B Singles chart.
    Between 1970 and 1976 the 'new' Supremes had twelve Top 100 records two made the Top 10, their other Top 10 record was "Stoned Love", it peaked at #7 on December 13th, 1970.
    They charted on the Top 100 two more times in duets with the Four Tops "River Deep - Mountain High" and "You Gotta Have Love In Your Heart" , both charted in 1971.
    And on the day the 'new' Supremes appeared on the 'Sullivan' show, the old Supremes with Diana Ross were still on the Top 100, "Someday, We'll Be Together" was at position #29.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, Ny On March 8th 1970, Diana Ross performed for the first time as a solo act after leaving the Supremes* she appeared at the Monticello Dinner Theater & Night Club in Framingham, Massachusetts.
    One month later on April 19th, 1970 her first solo release, "Reach Out and Touch (Somebody's Hand)", entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #49, and six weeks later on May 31st it peaked at #20 and spent 9 weeks on the Top 100.
    It reached #7 on Billboard's R&B Singles chart.
    Was track one of side one from her debut solo album, 'Diana Ross', and the album peaked at #1 on Billboard’s Top R&B Albums chart <#19 on the Top 200 Pop Albums chart>.
    * at the time of this solo appearance the Supreme's "Someday, We'll Be Together" was at #19 on the Top 100 chart .
  • Barry from Sauquoit, Ny On January 14th 1970, the Supremes appeared at the Frontier Hotel in Las Vegas it would be the last time Diana Ross performed as a member of the Supremes*.
    At the time the trio's "Someday We'll Be Together" was at #4 on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart twenty-four days earlier on December 21st, 1969 it peaked at #1 for 1 week .
    It was the last of their twelve records that peaked at #1 on the Top 100 and they just missed having a thirteenth #1 when "Reflections" peaked at #2 in 1967
    * During their performance Jean Terrell was introduced as Ms. Ross' replacement.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, Ny On December 21st 1969 Diana Ross & the Supremes performed "Someday We'll Be Together" on the CBS-TV program 'The Ed Sullivan Show'.
    And on that very same day is reached #1 (for 1 week) on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart it had entered the chart on November 2nd and spent 16 weeks on the Top 100.
    On December 7th it reached #1 (for 4 weeks) on Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles chart.
    And on the same show the trio also performed a medley of ten of their #1 records.
  • Camille from Toronto, Oh Diana Ross's voice is so sultry, so sublime in this tune, sexy and a little breathless. The song really captured that moment in time as well as the emotion of it she was going out on her own. Tho she sings "I made a big mistake" she doesn't really sound too sad about it, does she? I think that's why the song works so well.
  • John from Hamlin, Ny . Mary Wilson and Cindy Birdsong are not on the recording. it's back-up singers.
    Miss Ross and her monumental ego flashes forward.
    They were my favorite group as a kid.

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