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Diana Ross & the Supremes

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The most successful black performers of the '60s, the Supremes for a time rivaled even the Beatles in terms of red-hot commercial appeal, reeling off five number one singles in a row at one point. Critical revisionism has tended to undervalue the Supremes' accomplishments, categorizing their work as more lightweight than the best soul stars' (or even the best Motown stars'), and viewing them as a tool for Berry Gordy's crossover aspirations. There's no question that there was about as much pop as soul in the Supremes' hits, that even some of their biggest hits could sound formulaic, and that they were probably the black performers who were most successful at infiltrating the tastes and televisions of middle America. This shouldn't diminish either their extraordinary achievements or their fine music, the best of which renders the pop vs. soul question moot with its excellence. The Supremes were not an overnight success story, although it might have seemed that way when they began topping the charts with sure-fire regularity. The trio that would become famous as the Supremes -- Diana Ross, Mary Wilson, and Florence Ballard -- met in the late '50s in Detroit's Brewster housing project. Originally known as the Primettes, they were a quartet (Barbara Martin was the fourth member) when they made their first single for the Lupine label in 1960. By the time they debuted for Motown in 1961, they had been renamed the Supremes; Barbara Martin reduced them to a trio when she left after their first single. The Supremes' first Motown recordings were much more girl-group-oriented than their later hits. Additionally, not all of them featured Diana Ross on lead vocals; Flo Ballard, considered to have as good or better a voice, also sang lead. Through a lengthy series of flops, Berry Gordy remained confident that the group would eventually prove to be one of Motown's biggest. By the time they finally did get their first Top 40 hit, "When the Lovelight Starts Shining Through His Eyes" in late 1963, Ross had taken over the lead singing for good. Ross was not the most talented female singer at Motown; Martha Reeves and Gladys Knight in particular had superior talents. What she did have, however, was the most purely pop appeal. Gordy's patience and attention paid off in mid-1964 when "Where Did Our Love Go" went to number one. Written by Holland-Dozier-Holland, it established the prototype for their run of five consecutive number one hits in 1964-1965 (also including "Baby Love," "Stop! In the Name of Love," "Come See About Me," and "Back in My Arms Again"). Ross' cooing vocals would front the Supremes' decorative backup vocals, put over on television and live performance with highly stylized choreography and visual style. Holland-Dozier-Holland would write and produce all of the Supremes' hits through the end of 1967. Not all of the Supremes' singles went to number one after 1965, but they usually did awfully well, and were written and produced with enough variety (but enough of a characteristic sound) to ensure continual interest. The chart-topping (and uncharacteristically tough) "You Keep Me Hangin' On" was the best of their mid-period hits. Behind the scenes, there were some problems brewing, although these only came to light long after the event. Other Motown stars (most notably Martha Reeves) resented what they perceived as the inordinate attention lavished upon Ross by Gordy, at the expense of other artists on the label. The other Supremes themselves felt increasingly pushed to the background. In mid-1967, as a result of what was deemed increasingly unprofessional behavior, Ballard was replaced by Cindy Birdsong (from Patti LaBelle & the Bluebelles). Ballard become one of rock's greatest tragedies, eventually ending up on welfare and dying in 1976. After Ballard's exit, the group was billed as Diana Ross & the Supremes, fueling speculation that Ross was being groomed for a solo career. The Supremes had a big year in 1967, even incorporating some mild psychedelic influences into "Reflections." Holland-Dozier-Holland, however, left Motown around this time, and the quality of the Supremes' records suffered accordingly (as did the Motown organization as a whole). The Supremes were still superstars, but as a unit, they were disintegrating; it's been reported that Wilson and Birdsong didn't even sing on their final hits, a couple of which ("Love Child" and "Someday We'll Be Together") were among their best. In November 1969, Ross' imminent departure for a solo career was announced, although she played a few more dates with them, the last in Las Vegas in January 1970. Jean Terrell replaced Ross, and the group continued through 1977, with some more personnel changes (although Mary Wilson was always involved). Some of the early Ross-less singles were fine records, particularly "Stoned Love," "Nathan Jones," and the Supremes/Four Tops duet "River Deep -- Mountain High." Few groups have been able to rise to the occasion after the loss of their figurehead, though, and the Supremes proved no exception, rarely making the charts after 1972. It is the Diana Ross-led era of the '60s for which they'll be remembered. ~ Richie Unterberger
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Albums by
Diana Ross & the Supremes

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    10 songs

    On Air

    Diana Ross & The Supremes Sing And Perform "Funny Girl"

    14 songs

    On Air

    Reflections

    11 songs

    On Air

    Cream of the Crop

    12 songs

    On Air

    Supremes a Go Go

    82 songs

    On Air

    50th Anniversary: The Singles Collection: 1961-1969

    24 songs

    On Air

    The #1's

    50 songs

    On Air

    Anthology [2001]

    11 songs

    On Air

    20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Diana Ross & Supremes,V 2

    25 songs

    On Air

    The Ultimate Collection

    11 songs

    On Air

    Motown Legends: My World Is Empty Without You

    23 songs

    On Air

    Captured Live on Stage!

    15 songs

    On Air

    Your Heart Belongs to Me

    49 songs

    On Air

    Supreme Rarities: Motown Lost and Found

    11 songs

    On Air

    Cream of the Crop

    12 songs

    On Air

    Merry Christmas

    11 songs

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    Diana Ross & the Supremes Join the Temptations

    9 songs

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    Diana Ross & the Supremes Join the Temptations

    12 songs

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    Love Child

    21 songs

    On Air

    Diana Ross & the Supremes Join the Temptations/Together

    10 songs

    On Air

    Greatest Hits, Vol. 2

    11 songs

    On Air

    Greatest Hits, Vol. 3

    13 songs

    On Air

    Reflections

    12 songs

    On Air

    Every Great #1 Hit

    12 songs

    On Air

    Love Child

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Top Songs by
Diana Ross & the Supremes

  1.   Song
    Popularity
  2.   Someday We'll Be Together
  3.   Come See About Me
  4.   In and Out of Love
  5.   Silver Bells
  6.   I'm Gonna Make You Love Me
  7.   Reflections
  8.   You Can't Hurry Love
  9.   I'm Livin' in Shame
  10.   My Favorite Things
  11.   Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
  12.   Love Child
  13.   I Hear a Symphony
  14.   A Hard Day's Night
  15.   Shadows of Society
  16.   Forever Came Today
  17.   How Long Has That Evening Train Been Gone
  18.   He's My Sunny Boy
  19.   Stop! In the Name of Love
  20.   Baby Love
  21.   Get Ready
  22.   Won't Be Long Before Christmas
  23.   Those Precious Memories
  24.   Autumn Leaves
  25.   The Happening
  26. See All Songs

Stations & Shows Featuring
Diana Ross & the Supremes

    On Air

    Donna Summer Tribute

    On Air

    Legends Of Motown

    On Air

    '60s Hits

    On Air

    Oldies

    On Air

    Vintage Love Songs

    On Air

    Yuletide Classics

    On Air

    Top Christmas Hits

    On Air

    The Wolf's Christmas Classics

    On Air

    Classic Hits

    On Air

    Holiday Deep Dive

    On Air

    Hotel Poolside

    On Air

    '60s Deep Dive


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