Diana Ross Speech to the Royal Family
Below is what the above video says was contained in the speech Diana Ross made to the Royal Family in 1968.
I have never seen it reported.
Was anyone there? Did it happen this way?
I want to report a share of the speech that Diana Ross made, after Martin Luther King's murder, at Royal Albert Hall , in front of the British Royal Family, in London, November 19, 1968,
While she is singing ( with The Supremes ) "SOMEWHERE ", stops the music and starts to talk : " I haven' t to many changes to speak to very important people like who stay in front of me tonight. Like you see, I'm black and you are whites .I sing and you hear me ; then, when all is finished, we go all out from the hall, together. There are some States of my country, the USA, where whites and blacks haven' t the same rights : they can't go out from the same door.
I wanna that you think about when you'll go home ". A cold silence fall in the hall and someone, from the last rows, start to clap . In short, all the audience , include the Royal Family members, give to Diana Ross and the Supremes a standing ovation lasted more than 2 minutes ! Miss Ross thanks and continues the concert . After the show, Diana Ross and the Supremes were received by the Queen Mother .
It was at the Royal Variety Performance at the London Palladium not the Royal Albert Hall. There was no 2 minute standing ovation but there was a lot of embarrassment. All guests on the show are then received by who ever royals are present.
I agree with copley.
Yes, it was indeed the Royal Variety Performance (or, as was traditionally styled, The Royal Command Performance),in the presence of the Queen Mother, and also Princess Margaret (who,according to Mary, during the aftershow line-up asked her if she was wearing a wig...).
The show was,I think,traditionally performed on a Monday (in 1968, it seems it was November 18th), and broadcast to the nation on the following Sunday.
I didn't see the televised programme, as I was at the Palladium that evening watching them live (the earlier of two shows) - and will never forget it. If my memory serves me right, they were wearing the TCB butterfly dresses.
I was able to listen later to a recording of the televised programme, and would say that there was little if any variation to their normal performance of 'Somewhere' - i.e. it seemed to be the same as at the show I attended on the following Sunday at the Palladium.
UK newspapers did report on Diana's speech. Some, it has to be said, unfavourably. It probably wasn't fully realised that it was a regular feature of their act.
Back in the 60s, audiences for a Royal performance would have been somewhat restrained in their show of appreciation, and would certainly have remained in their seats while the performance was in progress.
However, other newspapers reported that the response from the audience to Diana's speech was very warm, and that 'members of the Royal Family had joined in the enthusiastic applause'.
I doubt that the Supremes would have deviated from their usual stage routine. The show organisers would have checked out what all the acts would perform. It is unlikely The Supremes would have been permitted on that particular occasion to stray into any controversial territory, or would ever wish to do so.
Even if Diana had varied her usual speech, and was simply and spontaneously telling it as she genuinely felt it was, the Queen Mother, Princess Margaret and any other member of the Royal family were unlikely to have been offended and, despite their perceived privileged status, would almost certainly have been fully understanding and sympathetic.
That said, as much as they might have enjoyed the performance,members of the Royal Family never give standing ovations - at least, certainly not in those days....
The Supremes were virtually top of the bill that night, and were welcomed on stage as old friends.
It was left to comedian Frankie Howerd to conclude the show, wandering on stage after The Supremes took their bows, and confided to the already delighted audience "I'm the surprise...I thought you might like a bit of relief, after all that drama....!"
His aside brought the house down...and at the end of his act, The Supremes again received huge applause when they were welcomed back on stage with all the other performers to join with the audience (by then standing in respect) in facing the Royal Box, and singing the National Anthem.
(While on the subject of the Royal family, I hope all of our friends in the States, who may be interested, will share and enjoy the forthcoming celebrations here for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee...)
Last edited by westgrandboulevard; 05-28-2012 at 09:18 AM.
Wasnt' there some controversy that a minstrel act was on the bill that night?
Yes, you're absolutely right.
There was a very popular British TV programme, George Mitchell's 'The Black and White Minstrel Show', which was broadcast at prime time on Saturday evenings. It was based on the old-style Al Jolson idea of white male singers blacking up, to perform songs in that particular of style of performance.
Diana Ross said words to the effect that although, in its way, she felt it was done well enough, she also felt people didn't need to see that sort of entertainment any more.
To its target audience of older viewers, the programme had for years been just an accepted show over here, regarded as being 'safe' and 'harmless', seemingly without intentional malice or slight to members of the black community.
However, times were indeed changing, the show was becoming steadily out of date,and there was a growing number of people who were becoming uncomfortable with the whole concept of it.
Some felt Diana Ross should not be a visitor to the UK, and then be outspoken about other forms of entertainment that were popular with the British public. I'm not absolutely sure, but I don't think the Minstrel show featured on that same Royal Variety bill as The Supremes.
Others, particularly those of our own generation, admired her for expressing views they quietly shared, even if many of them may have said nothing to support her.
The show, despite some changes to the production (including the dropping of the black makeup) steadily fell out of favour, and ended its run in the late 70s.
Last edited by westgrandboulevard; 05-28-2012 at 12:06 PM.
If you click upon the link that I posted above you will see who were guesting on the '68 show. Morecambe & Wise were top of the bill. The Black and White Minstrels only ever appeared once in the '62 show.
Westgrandboulevard, thank you so very much for sharing your memories and knowledge of that performance all those years ago.
I am excited about watching the the Queens Diamond Jubilee festivities on television here. I just wish that Diana, Mary and Cindy were going to sing for Her Majesty. That certainly would be something to celebrate!
West Grand..............so are you saying that what the youtube poster posted as part of the contents of Diana's speech are not quite accurate?
I've never seen it put in the form that the poster says and always assumed, as you say, that the speech was more along the lines of the usual show.
I have some saved Motown clipping and I know I have a picture and a news report of this; I will try and find it and post it if I can. Maybe it will jog some other memories.
It would be interesting to see if the film has indeed survived. I assumed that Diana did her updated monologue from SOMEWHERE, with the added references to Martin Luther King, Jr. The same one that she performed on T.C.B.
Also, if you clink on one of the links above, you can see the program for the show. The Black And White Minstrels are indeed included. Whether they actually performed that evening is only known by those who attended. In CALL HER MISS ROSS, the author wrote that Diana saw the Minstrels during the rehearsal, thought they were offensive, and said she would not perform if they did,reasoning that to appear with them would make it seem as if she approved. She was talked out of it. But noting the reaction her response had gotten from the assembled press, Diana decided not to rehearse the SOMEWHERE monologue, staying silent during the interlude.
Last edited by reese; 05-28-2012 at 03:33 PM.
Yours is a very interesting thread.
I would not say I disagree with what is posted on YouTube, just that I'm posting some of my own personal recollections of what happened at the time. And that was a l-o-n-g time ago....
It would need a few others, presumably from here in the UK, to contribute with their own thoughts, to get a more accurate picture. I'm hoping they will. They may disagree with my own recollections.
Ideally, of course, someone who actually attended the Royal show, or maybe has a clearer memory of the broadcast than I, would have an opinion with which I'd be minded to agree.
I wonder if it may just be that some facts from one performance have been attributed to another, and passed on.
For example, since I responded to your post earlier, I've now recalled that, at the Palladium show I attended in London a few days after the Royal Performance, the response to 'Somewhere' and Diana's speech, was rapturous. There was indeed a spontaneous standing ovation, which could easily have lasted for two minutes. Mary was visibly moved, that I do clearly recall.
It will be very interesting to learn if Diana did indeed amend her script for that one occasion, in the presence of the Royal family. I've never really thought about it that much.
I just wish I could say for sure, one way or the other. You've got me curious.....
If you find your picture and news report, that could be revealing.
I'll have to look in the bottom of a very deep box here, too....
I remember watching it on TV and was surprised when Diana launched into the spoken interlude and mentioned MLK. I have seen the performance since but I'm afraid I can't remember where.
18th November, 1968
The Palladium Theatre, London
ROYAL VARIETY PERFORMANCE
1968 was hailed by Her Majesty the Queen Mother, a seasoned connoisseur of music hall and variety, as being one of the best ever. Diana Ross used the opportunity to make a moving tribute to black civil rights leader, Martin Luther King, who had been assassinated earlier in the year, during her performance with the Supremes.
Held in the presence of
HER MAJESTY QUEEN ELIZABETH THE QUEEN MOTHER
accompanied by Prince Charles, Princess Anne, Princess Margaret & the Earl of Snowdon
Presented by: Bernard Delfont
Musical Director: Eric Tann
Producer: Robert Nesbitt
Compere: Des O'Connor
AIMI MACDONALD & LIONEL BLAIR
ERIC MORECAMBE & ERNIE WISE
CZECHOSLVAKIAN STATE SONG & DANCE ENSEMBLE
MANITAS DE PLATA & COMPANY
ANGNES O'CONNELL'S LONDON IRISH GIRL PIPERS
ANDRE TAHON & COMPANY
DIANA ROSS AND THE SUPREMES
MORECAMBE AND WISE
The Black & White Minstrels are not listed but a photo does seem to be in the programme!
Last edited by copley; 05-28-2012 at 05:07 PM.
I've always heard they received a two-minute standing ovation for that performance of "Somewhere." I've read standing ovations are rare at the Royal Variety performances too. I remember reading Shirley Bassey got a standing ovation for her performance of "Hey Jude" in the early 90's and it was the first time in over 25 years that a standing ovation occurred. Maybe the Supremes were last ones to get one before her. In J. Randy Taraborrelli's latest book on Diana, he states that the Queen Mother was the first one on her feet. It would make sense since the official Royal Variety website page states how the 1968 show was one of the best Royal Varieties the Queen Mother ever saw. I know he also interviewed Gil Askey about the Royal Variety performance and he said something to the effect that their performance and the reaction from the audience was something he never experienced before. His words were "I'll never forget it. It was that powerful, that moving, that inspiring. I kept pinching myself. I couldn't quite believe it."
This is the show that is being referred to, I guess it did run a heck of a long time, if it ran till 1978.
On the one hand, I definately see Why Diana would object to singing on a show with this group, on the other, I can also see why people would be outraged that someone from the USA would be foisting their racial baggage on a country that doesn't have it. Having said that... isn't it obvious that these guys in blackface look stupid as hell? How distracting, It's hard to even hear them sing with that ridiculous crap on. I never understood the appeal of it on any level, to tell you the truth. As a child... found the look scary, actually.
Last edited by jillfoster; 05-28-2012 at 08:27 PM.
I saw the televised version of the Royal Command Performance and assumed that Diana's monologue was part of the normal act. My view at the time was that the newspapers had given it a significance that did not exist. The agenda of the right-wing press was that royalty should not be exposed to any sort of political controversy.
I had grown up watching the Black And White Minstrels. Although by this time I was going on Anti-Apartheid demos, it had just never occurred to me that anyone might find the Minstrels offensive. I can't remember whether or not they were on the Royal Command bill.
Very true and understandable. Maybe what the press didn't realize that the audience might have understood was how important it may have been to Diana and the Supremes to go from the Brewster Projects of Detroit to performing for the British Royal family and how they did so when their own country was going through racial and social unrest. I'm sure the Queen Mother/Royal family and the audience recognized the heart and soul they poured into that performance and what it may have meant to them. I'm sure they weren't singing the song like it was just another show. What an accomplishment and moving experience it must have been for those three ladies to see the reaction. I probably would have walked off that stage, paused for a moment to catch my breath and say "Did that just happen?" I can only imagine what the three of them must have said to each other in the dressing room right after.
Originally Posted by jillfoster
Are you actually stating that England had no racial baggage in 1968? You’re seriously making such a statement? Just as a refresher, England was very active in perpetuating the African slave trade from the 17th into the 19th century. And certainly the people of the West Indies and India suffered under the brunt of racist English colonial rule for centuries. Sorry, but there was racial baggage in English society in 1968 and today. It may be different from that of the United States, but it’s baggage nevertheless.
Originally Posted by jillfoster
What I could find was this picture with Princess Anne; I believe the Queen was not in attendance that year.
I'm not sure if I have anything else.
Yes, I'm saying exactly that. There wasn't all that overt segregation and bullshit such as that back then, and now there isn't all that politically correct tip-toeing. There's some degree of racial baggage anywhere you go, but you know what I mean when I say it's not an issue over there. I actually don't think minstrels are really much different than drag queens when you get right down to it (Except most drag queen aren't nearly as scary looking).
Originally Posted by smark21
Last edited by jillfoster; 05-29-2012 at 01:03 AM.
Rob... there's a picture of them also with the queen. Anne is the one who asked Mary about the wig, and the picture you posted is the one where Mary is givin her the stinkeye LOL.
Originally Posted by jobeterob
I got the attendance from Wikipedia............it has a list of Royal Attendees and the Queen was missing; but Wiki of course, is as reliable as the last idea.
I will write to the Youtube poster and ask him where he got this version of what Diana said; to me, it has somewhat of an air of truth to it, because it sounds a little bit incoherent like she can occasionally be; and it sounds like how she talks.
Anyways, thanks for the input and ideas.
The Queen was not there as I have clearly posted - twice! The link I posted, twice, shows the actual programme for '68 as is the official web site of the show.
Then where does this picture originate from?
Originally Posted by copley
All three are wearing the same wigs as the newspaper clipping, and Engelbert is standing next to Diana.
That looks like the Queen Mother, not Queen Elizabeth.
Here is pic of Queen Mother in 1980 when she turned 80.
And here she is with her daughter, Queen Elizabeth and family, celebrating her 100th birthday
There were many queens in the audience that evening so long ago. None of them were Queen Elizabeth II however.
That's the Queen Mother not The Queen!
Originally Posted by jillfoster
ha ha ha ha!
Originally Posted by penny
The person that posted on Youtube says that the contents of the speech to the Royal Family in 1968 are posted on the Internet. This is what it says in Italian. Can anyone translate?
esiste il mondo e ci aiuta a vivere meglio. A pensarci bene è un po' come il comunismo.
12 novembre, 2010
19 novembre 1968 – Diana Ross e la regina d’Inghilterra
Negli anni Sessanta il Royal Variety Show è uno dei più importanti appuntamenti per la nobiltà britannica. Si tratta di uno spettacolo musicale di beneficenza che si svolge a Londra, cui prende parte l’intera famiglia reale, con la regina in prima fila. Il programma è, ogni anno, arricchito dalla presenza di ospiti illustri e di fama internazionale. Si privilegiano, ovviamente, gli interpreti britannici, ma non si disdegna di invitare qualche star straniera di successo. Nell’edizione del 1968, che si svolge il 19 novembre, il ruolo di ospite speciale spetta alle Supremes, il trio di punta della Motown, guidato da una Diana Ross che molti danno ormai sul piede di partenza, pronta a debuttare come solista. Il gruppo ha alle spalle un quadriennio di successi con oltre quaranta milioni di dischi venduti in tutto il mondo e non si fa certo mettere in soggezione dall’idea di cantare davanti alla regina d’Inghilterra. Diana Ross, Mary Wilson e l’ultima arrivata Cindy Birdsong, che da un anno ha preso il posto di Florence Ballard, sono “vecchie volpi” (non in senso anagrafico) del palcoscenico. Il concerto procede quindi su binari tranquilli di fronte a un pubblico ordinato come si conviene quando è presente la famiglia reale al gran completo. Verso la fine, però, le due compagne fanno un passo indietro e lasciano Diana Ross sola davanti al microfono, mentre la musica si ferma. La cantante inizia a parlare: «Non ho molte occasioni di parlare a persone potenti come chi mi sta davanti oggi. Io, come vedete, sono nera, mentre voi siete bianchi. Io canto e voi mi ascoltate, poi quando tutto è finito ce ne andiamo insieme dalla sala. Questo non succede sempre. Ci sono posti nel mondo, compreso alcuni stati del mio paese, gli Stati Uniti, dove neri e bianchi non hanno gli stessi diritti, non possono neanche uscire dalla stessa porta. Vorrei che ci pensaste quando tornate nelle vostre case». Mentre la Ross si allinea alle sue compagne nella sala cala un silenzio imbarazzato. Qualcuno, dalle ultime file batte timidamente le mani, altri lo seguono. In breve tutta la platea, compresi i membri della famiglia reale, si alza in piedi e prolunga per due minuti l’applauso. Diana Ross ringrazia e annuncia il brano seguente.
Translated by a program.
November 12, 2010
November 19, 1968 - Diana Ross and the Queen of England
In the sixties the Royal Variety Show is one of the most important events for the British nobility. This is a charity musical show that takes place in London, which takes part in the whole royal family, with the queen in the front row. The program, each year, enriched by the presence of distinguished guests and internationally renowned. We prefer, of course, British agents, but not ashamed to invite some foreign star success. In the edition of 1968, which takes place Nov. 19, the role of special guest is up to the Supremes, the leading trio of Motown, Diana Ross, who led a lot of damage now about to leave, ready to debut as a soloist. The group has experienced four years of success with over forty million albums sold worldwide, and certainly does not put in subjection by the idea of singing before the Queen of England. Diana Ross, Mary Wilson and Cindy Birdsong's latest addition to that a year has taken the place of Florence Ballard, are "old hands" (not in a master) of the stage. The concert then proceeds quietly on tracks in front of a public order as is appropriate when there is the royal family in full force. Towards the end, however, the two companions are a step back and let Diana Ross alone at the microphone, while the music stops. The singer begins to speak: "I have many occasions to talk to people as powerful as those before me today. I, like you see are black, while you're white. I sing and you listen to me, then when everything is finished we go along the hall. This does not always happen. There are places in the world, including some member of my country, the United States, where blacks and whites do not have the same rights, can not even go out the same door. I wish you thought when you return to your homes. " While Ross is in line with its companions in the room drops an awkward silence. Someone from the back beats hands timidly, others follow. In short the whole audience, including members of the royal family, stands up and extends for two minutes the applause. Diana Ross thanked and announced the next song.
the master videotape to the performance was sadly erased soon after broadcast..there are a couple of SDF members who made off air cassette recordings of the show and still have them...
I also found a translation program and gave it a try with similar results.
It would be great to hear from the people that Nomis refers to, especially if they still have their tapes.
It's 101% unlikely that the folks in the royal box rose to give them a standing ovation! The Royals don't do that - even the way they clap is rather muted. Wills & Harry may change all that but The QM certainly didn't
Copley is likely right from what I've read, esp. way back then.
West Grand..........is any of this jogging any memories? No standing O's right?
Again , I would be minded to agree (and I've not yet had a chance to look through my memorabilia..)
I apologise if this is going to sound really 'stuffy', but here goes....
The established protocol in the UK is for a seated audience to stand when they are joined by any member of the Royal Family.
At the end of the performance, the Royal family member(s) will stand when they wish to leave.....and the audience immediately follows suit.
At the Royal performance we're discussing here, all the Royal family members present would have been seated in at least one 'Royal Box', above stage level, to one side ( to the right, I believe, as the audience faces the stage, so the Supremes would have turned to their left, and looked up to face the Royal box)
Due to that line of sight, only the top half of anyone seated above in the box may be seen.
The Queen Mother would certainly have worn long gloves for a 'gala' performance.
I can't see from your photo of Princess Anne (now Princess Royal) if she too is wearing gloves. It is likely, but not certain, as Anne was of the younger generation. (In the colour image shown on this thread, Anne is standing behind the Queen Mother, and would appear not to be wearing long sleeve gloves). The fashion of wearing gloves, at least for formal occasions was losing favour (the Queen still wears short gloves, to protect her hands...and I believe there is always a spare pair in her now legendary handbag....and wherever she travels, whatever she is wearing on the day, an identical outfit accompanies her, in case anything is spilled on it).
(when the Supremes first visited the UK and appeared on Top of the Pops to promote 'Where did our love go', I have a mental image of them wearing not only long white dresses, but also long white gloves...but I could be wrong...as I've not seen a recording of that. That idea changed for 'Baby Love'. For the Royal performance, you will notice that they wore those beautiful dresses (now viewed as 'iconic'), which were also long sleeved, so covering their arms....)
It could be argued that, if the Royal family were indeed to stand to give a 'standing ovation' to The Supremes, the audience would have followed suit.
But...even though I was not there, I'm as certain as I can be (as copley said, 101%) that it did not happen.
What would have happened is that those in the Royal Box would have politely applauded, but their hands may have been out of view.
Overt demonstrations of appreciation and emotion are not exhibited by the Royal Family, certainly senior members,although the Queen has been known to be visibly moved on certain occasions.
Everything has to follow a strict protocol. (you might recall the furore when the Queen initially simply followed that protocol, and did not have the Union flag lowered when Diana died...and faced accusations she did not care...)
The younger members of the family - Charles, Anne - may possibly have raised their hands so that they could be seen by the audience, to share their appreciation of The Supremes, but most certainly (at least in those days) would not have raised their arms, or waved them around, let alone stand and applaud.
I can well imagine that, following 'Somewhere', the Queen Mother would have applauded as much as elegance would permit, and beamed that smile of hers, down to the stage.
I can well imagine that other members of the family may have applauded vigorously, and smiled their appreciation....but all would have remained in their seats.
Had any of them stood, it would have immediately placed the conductor in a difficult position...as normally, the orchestra is cued ready, if necessary, to encourage applause to finish, to proceed with the performance.
In Mary's book 'Dream Girl' (my copy, page 224) she says 'there was a two-minute standing ovation, and the Royal Family cheered wildly'.
Mary was there. I wasn't - and I don't want to be seen to disagree..but I believe The Supremes performance was very much appreciated, just not demonstrated in quite the way Mary describes.
As for whether Diana did amend her speech, I still don't know.
Unless more than one person can agree and produce evidence, I'd still agree with others here and say that, most probably, she did not.
Last edited by westgrandboulevard; 05-31-2012 at 07:04 AM.
If the Press hadn't drawn attention to the monologue, the television audience would not have thought of it as being unusual or out-of-place. I watched it and didn't see what the fuss was all about.
Maybe I'll ask Rhonda on Facebook what she knows about this speech, if anything; and we'll see if she answers. But I think they generally stay fairly quiet about their mother.
It's a bit hard to believe that the speech was quite different from what we had thought and no one had ever said anything about it before.
There was a guy called David who used to post on SDF..in the 60s he would put his tape recorder next to the tv and make an audio recording of The Supremes UK tv apperances..The Royal Variety show was one of the things he taped...
We need to track down this David!
I did that with the Motown Ready Steady Go special, and halfway through I've got the sound of my mother frying fish!
Did it record her speech during "There's A Plaice For Us..." then...?