Diana Ross and the Supremes
Diana Ross is remembered primarily for two things: her music, and her hair. She was associated with a strong degree of glamor, and she brought that with her every time she took to the stage. Not only did she have a natural beauty and astounding figure, but she preferred to complement her looks with diamond jewelry and fur clothing. Even the way she moved had an element of refinement to it. If anyone doubted that Ross was a star, they simply needed to watch her on the stage in order to be convinced.
Of course, Ross did not build her career on her own. The Supremes were one of the defining musical groups of the Motown era. She would have looked incomplete onstage without the equally gorgeous Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard standing behind her. There were also some big names behind the scenes, such as Holland, Dozier and Holland. Brothers Brian Holland and Eddie Holland worked alongside Lamont Dozier to write melodies worthy of the Supremes’ talents, while the Funk Brothers acted as house band to provide the instrumental melodies the songs needed. The group’s success was also spurred by Motown president Berry Gordy, who was responsible for bringing Ross’s name to the forefront of American consciousness.
With all of these elements in place, Diana Ross and the Supremes were able to deliver one hit song after the other. Songs such as “Come See About Me” and “I Hear a Symphony” had lively and unique musical intros that added to every set the group performed. The same could be said about “Where Did Our Love Go,” a song that the group originally did not want to perform when they recorded it in 1964. Over the next year or so, they would record other hit singles such as “Baby Love” and “Stop! In the Name of Love,” two songs which are still memorable additions to the music world today.
While other members of the group such as Cindy Birdsong (Berry Gordy’s replacement for Florence Ballard) were integral to their musical sound, Diana Ross would ultimately become the most notable member in more than name. Her vocal stylings were unique, and her voice was recognizable to most listeners when it emanated soothingly from their radios. Her voice may not have been as big as that of Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight, or Patti LaBelle, but it was still remarkable. The success of Diana Ross taught listeners that a singer’s voice did not have to be humongous in order to please audiences. This understanding would ultimately prove vital to the success of later female recording artists such as Madonna and Janet Jackson.
In fact, the Jackson 5 could be said to owe a lot of their success to Diana Ross and the Supremes. They helped to popularize black music groups as mainstream entertainment, reaching a level of international stardom that extended far beyond the confines of Harlem. The same would eventually be said of other black musical groups such as the Four Tops and the Temptations. While Diana Ross would go on to become successful on her own merit as a solo artist, her work with the Supremes had an arguably much more profound impact on the music industry than anything else she did during the course of her career.
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