Black Music History "Group Session" – Day 5: The Supremes

6 Degrees of Soul: In 1970, Stevie Wonder & Syreeta Wright wrote and produced “It’s A Shame” for Day 5’s “The Spinners”. Before her solo career took off, Wright was slated to replace a rising solo star of an iconic Motown act. That star was Diana Ross and the group, Day 5’s The Supremes.

 
Their story began as a quartet featuring Diana Ross, Florence Ballard, Mary Wilson and Betty McGlown. After signing to Motown as The Primettes (a sister act to The Primes who would later merge into The Temptations) four became three and three became The Supremes. Over the decades their story has been well documented, discussed, praised and celebrated. They are without a doubt the greatest American singing group of all-time. With 12 number one singles and several other chart climbing songs it is almost impossible to list them all. So in honor of the 1st Ladies of Motown, I will post my favorite sampling of their work…
“We will release nothing less than Top Ten product on any artist; and because the Supremes’ world-wide acceptance is greater than the other artists, on them we will only release number-one records.”  …a memo written by Barry Gordy after the production team of Holland-Dozier-Holland had hit a wall, following a string of hits, by failing to break into the Top 10… inspired by Gordy’s words the team retooled and crafted “I Hear A Symphony”… it would become The Supremes sixth number one song…
…a peek into the Motown sound… (after a couple million sales…) with “My World Is Empty Without You” w/ narration and comments from Berry Gordy…
…another Holland-Dozier-Holland hit… “Love Is Like an Itching In My Heart” performed on the Ed Sullivan Show…
“Reflections” would begin the Cindy Birdsong period… who replaced Flo Ballard… Diana is on some A+ cool in this clip…
“I’m Gonna Make You Love Me” is a who’s who of soul history… co-written by Kenneth Gamble (Gamble & Huff and PIR), produced by Nickolas Ashford (of Ashford & Simpson), instrumentation by The Funk Brothers, sung by both The Supremes & Temptations… and led by Diana Ross & Eddie Kendricks… 
bonus for the aspiring singers out there… the acappela version… all I’m going to say is this IS the do better movement… so if you’re not hitting notes like these cats… keep trying… do better…
…lets show some love to the ladies not named… Diana… or Ross… probably her most notable song… here is Mary Wells singing “My Guy”… (The Supremes released a version as well… but we’ll let Mary get her shine…)
…the greatest tragedy surrounding The Supremes is that of Florence Ballard… credited for naming the group “The Supremes”, Ballard was said to have the strongest voice of the trio… evident from Mary Wilson’s autobiography… “In the early days of The Supremes, all three girls took turns singing lead vocals. Ballard sang lead on the second Supremes single, “Buttered Popcorn.” According to Wilson, Ballard’s voice was so loud that she was made to stand up to seventeen feet away from her microphone during recording sessions, while the other two Supremes stood directly in front of their microphones.”  However, Gordy felt Diana’s voice was best to lead in order to cross-over… after years of feeling neglected and arguing with Gordy, Florence began to withdraw from the group and fell into depression… Wells felt these problems stemmed from her being raped by Reggie Harding (who eventually became a professional basketball player) in high school… after fighting back from depression, financial debt, and a broken family… Ballard attempted to sing again in 1975… unfortunately, it would be short lived… Ballard died suddenly due to a blood blot on February 21, 1976… She was only 32… If you have a chance to catch TV One’s “Unsung” program on Florence Ballard… please do…
…this is Florence singing lead on one of my favorite Sam Cooke songs… “(Ain’t That) Good News”… a song that continued the infusion of gospel into secular (pop) music… much like the sonically familiar Ray Charles “I Got a Woman”
 
…we close out The Supremes with “One Day Will Be Together”… initially, the song was meant to be Diana’s first solo single… but “clever” marketing made it become the single (swan) song for Diana’s last album with The Supremes… and since it was originally slated for her single, neither Mary Wells or Cindy Birdsong are on vocals, another ironic twist to the song… lastly, the song is noted for being the last American number one hit of the 60’s… closing out a decade of music… and the Ross era… 
 
…thanks for reading…
more soul tomorrow,
– dre’ of onustees.com

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s