, an American female singing group
, were the premier act of Motown Records
during the 1960s. Originally founded as The Primettes
, in 1959, The Supremes' repertoire included doo-wop
, Broadway show tunes
, psychedelic soul
, and disco
. They were the most commercially successful of Motown's acts and are, to date, America's most successful vocal group
with 12 number one singles
on the Billboard Hot 100
. Most of these hits were written and produced by Motown's main songwriting and production team, Holland–Dozier–Holland
. At their peak in the mid-1960s, The Supremes rivaled The Beatles
in worldwide popularity, and their success made it possible for future African-American R&B
and soul musicians to find mainstream success.
Founding members Florence Ballard, Mary Wilson, Diana Ross, and Betty McGlown, all from the Brewster-Douglass public housing project in Detroit, formed The Primettes as the sister act to The Primes (with Paul Williams and Eddie Kendricks, who would go on to form The Temptations). Barbara Martin replaced McGlown in 1960, and the group signed with Motown the following year as The Supremes. Martin left the act in early 1962, and Ross, Ballard, and Wilson carried on as a trio.
During the mid-1960s, The Supremes achieved mainstream success with Ross as lead singer. In 1967, Motown president Berry Gordy renamed the group Diana Ross & the Supremes, and replaced Ballard with Cindy Birdsong. Ross left to pursue a solo career in 1970 and was replaced by Jean Terrell, at which point the group's name reverted to The Supremes. After 1972, the lineup changed more frequently; Lynda Laurence, Scherrie Payne, and Susaye Greene all became members of the group during the mid-1970s. The Supremes disbanded in 1977 after an 18-year run.
Selected article -
Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever was a 1983 television special produced by Suzanne de Passe for Motown Records, to commemorate Motown's twenty-fifth year of existence. (Motown was founded in January 1959, meaning that a twenty-fifth anniversary special should have aired in 1984, not 1983. One could argue that Gordy's vision of what would become "Hitsville U.S.A." was conceived in 1958, considering the month of Motown's founding). The program was taped before a live studio audience at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium in Pasadena, California on March 25, 1983, and broadcast on NBC on May 16. Among its highlights were Michael Jackson's iconic performance of "Billie Jean", a Temptations/Four Tops "battle of the bands", Marvin Gaye's inspired speech about black music history and his memorable performance of "What's Going On", a Jackson 5 reunion, and an abbreviated reunion of Diana Ross & the Supremes, who performed their final #1 hit, "Someday We'll Be Together" from 1969.
Selected biography -
Florence Glenda Ballard Chapman (June 30, 1943 – February 22, 1976), nicknamed "Flo" and "Blondie", was an American singer, and one of the original founders of the Hall of Fame Motown group The Supremes. During their early years, members of The Supremes (originally called The Primettes) enjoyed a generally democratic distribution of leads on songs. However, by 1966, Ballard and Mary Wilson had begun to feel ignored in the group as Motown President Berry Gordy, Jr. spotlighted Diana Ross's individual career.
Consequent discontent led Ballard to chronic depression and alcoholism, factors that weighed heavily in Gordy's decision to permanently dismiss Ballard from The Supremes in July 1967. Her replacement was former Bluebelle Cindy Birdsong. After an unsuccessful attempt at a solo career in the late 1960s, Ballard spent much of the last five years of her life in relative poverty, attempting to avoid media attention while suing the various parties involved in her dismissal from Motown.