Thursday, August 06, 2009

It's time for more legends of and they don't come bigger than Diana Ross and The Supremes.

Oddly, they were created in the late '50s as a companion group to another future Motown group. The Primes comprised a couple of future members of The Temptations and their manager wanted to have a girl group called The Primettes. He asked schoolgirl Florence Ballard and a Prime girlfriend Betty McGlone if they knew any other girls who could sing. Flo recruited fellow schoolgirls Mary Wilson and Diane Ross and after a few years, Diane approached Smokey Robinson who was a family friend if they could audition for Motown. Berry Gordy liked what he heard but told them to return when they had graduated. They haunted the offices however, helping with backing vocals, handclaps etc. McGlone was replaced by Barbara Martin who had also left by the time Gordy eventually signed them. They needed a new name however and Florence suggested the name The Supremes.

For two long years they released singles which were popular with DJs but did not trouble the charts. All three were tried out as lead vocalist and they were paired with various producers and songwriters but it was when they were paired with Brian & Eddie Holland and Lamont Dozier that their fortunes changed. They disliked WHERE DID OUR LOVE GO? but the record went straight to #1 in the US and #3 in the UK. They then had four consecutive US #1s - BABY LOVE, COME SEE ABOUT ME, STOP! IN THE NAME OF LOVE and BACK IN MY ARMS AGAIN - and went on to become one of the 1960s most successful chart acts.

Of course it all came at a price: Gordy realised that Ross' radio-friendly voice could be the key to crossing over to the lucrative supper-club market and soon they were there, singing Broadway showtunes with their own songs usually consigned to a mid-show medley; Diana's secret relationship with Gordy led to her being groomed for an obvious solo career, leading to other Motown acts suffering accordingly and more troubling, Florence's disenchantment with being marginalised until she was sacked from the group she had started and named. This led to Cindy Birdsong being recruited in her place and the group becoming Diana Ross and The Supremes. After that it was only a matter of time before their final hit single "Someday We'll be Together".

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