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The Supremes

The most successful American performers of the 1960s, 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 would be 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 1960s for which they'll be remembered. ~ Richie Unterberger, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

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Track List: Let Yourself Go: The '70s Albums, Vol. 2: 1974-1977 - The Final Sessions

Disc 1
Disc 2
Disc 3
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Track List: Supreme Rarities: Let The Music Play

Disc 1
Disc 2
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Track List: The Jean Terrell Years (1970-1973)

Disc 1
Disc 2
Disc 3
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Track List: I Hear A Symphony

Disc 1
Disc 2
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Track List: At The Copa: Expanded Edition

Disc 1
Disc 2

Comments

I love the supremes I am 9
littleblue20 1 0 1
one of my favorite! love the different songs all in one! :)
They all sounds great!
I love this song I'm 13
"Make It Was You"Timez-Ti m e z - T i m e z
H-Town~Groov i n ' ~ W e - D o n ' t - S t o p - T h a - M u s i c
LOVE+S Disciple*978 * 1 * ~ 9 m 1 4 y ~
we're pregnant
Love this song they play this on Beverly Hills cops come see about me
rhall008
Loved the supremes good stuff
Unfortunatel y they do not have the correct writers listed. this was written by Holland Dozier Holland who wrote the majority of the Supremes hits!!!
No one like the Supremes! LOVE them. love Diana Ross!
one of my favorites is mr blues
Oh thank goodness, my prayers were finally answered for me .I was also ready to give up on all my prayers for what I needed it in,and just a big thanks to u God.��
Lovem
Smokey at his best with the miracles.
What harmony!
boihardware
I remembered being so in love with Diana's dreamy voice and look. I was heart broken when it was announced that the group had split. These are the pioneers and all of them : Florence, Mary, Diana and even the groups precursor member, Betty McGlown deserve raw admiration and acknowledgme n t for this ground breaking group.
The supreme....y e s you ladies are
Mary Wilson and Cindy Birdsong did not sing back up vocals on this song.
Always worth listening to -
you can't hurry love
Good song right here!!!!
love you guys!!!!



















come on you are the best
Supreme as the northern lights on the star streaked sky
They were 'Surpreme' as nice rare steak and nice glass of Italian wine! Need I say more?
The Boss...Diana Ross....Is still hot !
Diana Ross was the star, but what got me listening to the Supremes was the echo-like backup singing of Mary and Florence.
Luv
Follow me!
Jus come back to meh :(
BABY :D Hugs im with you and in your heart on your mind your in mine to so say i do cause nobody else going to love you like me and you my baby you gotta believe me i wont every go hurt or make u sad or make you sorry if you take me back ;D
I'm Diana Ross :) xD Jk But My name is Diana :p
All I listened to as a kid <3
Lovin' It!
This is my jam
Never again
Some day is a great song, Al green has great music, check him out
Where Did Our Love Go? lol :D
i'm 13 and i love the song Someday we'll be together♥♥♥
dcamacho1999
Love this song
Im 18 anf i love this song
izzympa117
Wow, what a group!
So exciting to see the Supremes on Ed Sullivan. Im stuck in the 60's - and there aint nothing I can do about it.
anyone ever hear My Heart Can't take it No More by the Supremes ? - I never heard it played on Pandora
lalailk
Don't read this because it actually works. You will be kissed on the nearest Friday by the love of your life. However if you do not post this you will die in 2 days. Now you have started reading this don't stop. This is so scary put this on 5 songs in 143 minutes when done press f6 and your lovers name will appear on this screen in big letters this is so scary because it works
The supremes and Diana Ross really have a great voice I love it. I really love to listen to more of there music. I don't have to by it because I can go on Pandora and listen to there music. I really enjoy there music.
taniahalaby1 2
Mr telephone man
Theres something wrong with my line
@Leviticuswa t e r s 5 : When I was in high school in the late 70's, I had a girl group and we were up there singing the songs of this incredible group! We loved it!
The Dick Panthers are better.
I love this song so does my sis and she can't stop singing and dancing to the song
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