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  1. #1

    Smokey Produces.....Mary Wilson

    Just for fun....

    What if, instead of Hal Davis producing Mary's Motown solo album Smokey Robinson was at the helm instead.

    Imagine Mary handling such classics as 'When I'm Gone', 'Don't Mess with Bill', 'My Guy', 'I Second That Emotion'......maybe even a duet with Smokey....

    Thoughts?

  2. #2
    Quote Originally Posted by supremesouluk2 View Post
    Just for fun....

    What if, instead of Hal Davis producing Mary's Motown solo album Smokey Robinson was at the helm instead.

    Imagine Mary handling such classics as 'When I'm Gone', 'Don't Mess with Bill', 'My Guy', 'I Second That Emotion'......maybe even a duet with Smokey....

    Thoughts?
    This never would have happened. By 1979 Gordy had wanted Mary out of Motown for years. Smokey always went along with Gordy. The solo lp was the company's way of getting rid of Mary. It was doomed for failure from the start and was only offered to her to get her to drop her lawsuit.

  3. #3
    Sounds like a good idea but I wouldn't want any remakes. I wouldn't want there to be a need for any comparisons. A duet with Smokey might be nice.

  4. #4
    I don't think there's much evidence of Smokey being particularly successful as a producer, and at the time of the Wilson solo lp interest in Motown oldies was at a pre singing-raisins and 'Big Chill' low so I don't think it would have been a success.

  5. #5
    Smokey loved 'sexy' singing and wrote/produced hits for the Marvelettes & Supremes for the ones with the sexy voices (Wanda and Mary respectively) instead of the usual lead.

    He would have been one of the best choices to produce a Mary album, even if he was probably past his consistency of the 60s by the time of Red Hot.

  6. #6
    I think another fact which might go to a Robinson produced Wilson LP being successful was the fact that Mary Wilson’s voice was similar to and sometimes evocative of Mary Wells, who Robinson of course produced with great success. I think he clearly knew how to write songs for women and he appreciated what he referred to as the sleeping giants in the groups.

    To me the “ Floy Joy” LP was a misfire. Although the girls perform well, and Mary got to sing several leads, the material it was just too bland and ordinary in my opinion to make a good album.

  7. #7
    While Smokey would have been a much better producer for Mary Wilson than the Hal Davis disco infused solo LP or Mary's wish for Marvin Gaye, I don't think it would be a probability. I don't think Motown had any interest in Mary short of dropping her lawsuit. Motown didn't even want her to be the lead vocalist in the Supremes in 1973. I agree with the posts that Smokey did whatever Motown wanted and Berry did not want anything to do with Mary for many years. His meager support of the Supremes in 1970 had nothing to do with Mary or the group but how it would have looked for Diana to go solo and for her old group to not go on. Smokey did well with Mary on Floy Joy, and I agree he could have brought out the similar success and sound he had done with Mary Wells. Motown could have cared less about Mary in 1979. When she presented the excellent Gus Dudgeon tracks, they dropped her. Having Smokey as her producer would only be a pipe dream, plus who knows what he was doing professionally at that time that it would afford him to produce Mary.

  8. #8
    I personally think Smokey is so over-rated. Even the Temptations themselves mocked some of his lyrics. His producing efforts were spotty at best. occasionally he writes a great song like Blame it On Love or Cruising, but there are more misses than hits iMO. Mary was on the right track with the Danced My Heart Around the Stars tracks but by then nobody cared. You cannot sue your record company over and over and then expect them to promote you.

  9. #9
    Y'all be taking these "just for fun...what if" questions too seriously. We all know this had no real world chance.

    Just for fun, what if it did happen? I think it may have been a very nice album. While I love Smokey's poeticism, after his first three solo albums, most, if not all that followed leave me with a "meh" feeling. But he did have a winning combination with Mary Wells and then Wanda Rogers. He really gave Wanda something that brought out the beauty in her voice, which personally prior to Smokey getting hold of her I never thought Wanda was much of a singer. Smokey's writing and productions with her on lead (and later solo) changed my mind. The stuff he did with Mary on Floy Joy was great. He didn't force her to belt. He gave her music she could silky smooth her way through. I've read some fans think "A Heart Like Mine" is boring, but for me it's one of my absolute favorite Supreme cuts from the 70s. Mary sounds fantastic and she doesn't even have to do much. So having said that, I feel like if Smokey was producing Mary in the late 70s, he may have been able to do for her what he didn't always do for himself. Of course if he could've produced an album for her filled with "Cruisin" caliber tunes it might have been a winner.

  10. #10
    I was going to agree Bobby and was going to write "Besides his work with Mary Wells and the Marvelettes, Since I Lost My Baby, Take Me Where You Go and A Breath Taking Guy, I'm not much a fan of Smokey or his work, whether it be song writing or singing." But I realized that's quite a bit of his work that I like lol. I definitely do not care for his vocals.

  11. #11
    Regardless of who she worked with or hoped to work with, regardless of her disagreements with Motown, Berry and anyone else, the reason she never got a decent contract and none of the purported projects ever got off the ground is that she is a very limited singer.

  12. #12
    I just got a copy of FLOY JOY on CD. It had been a while since I'd listened to it from start to finish, and while I don't think it's their best work, it is a decent release.

    I still think the picture with Smokey should have been the cover, and the name changed to reflect or piggyback off of Smokey's work. I think it would have sold more copies and perhaps had better success with additional name recognition.

  13. #13
    Motown had ZERO INTENTION of working with Mary as a solo artist. We all know the only reason she got her contract in the first place was so she would drop her lawsuit.

    Whomever negotiated that deal for her was a fool.

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by marybrewster View Post
    Motown had ZERO INTENTION of working with Mary as a solo artist. We all know the only reason she got her contract in the first place was so she would drop her lawsuit.

    Whomever negotiated that deal for her was a fool.
    More Pedro?

  15. #15
    Like many other performers, Mary is a singer whose songs need to be tailored to her singing style. Diana is lucky in having a light, lilting vocal style that can make even mediocre songs sound just that bit better. I don’t think that necessarily makes Mary any less of a singer.
    I think Mary working with Smokey might have proved very interesting. I have always thought she could easily have stepped into Mary Wells shoes had she not been a Supreme. The Floy Joy album provides a glimpse as to what might have been.

  16. #16
    I enjoy Mary Wilson's voice, just like I enjoy Diana Ross'. Mary Wilson did share a similar sound with Mary Wells, but I feel Wilson's tone was much better than Wells'. One of the keys to Ross' success was her light, pliable voice. Ross wrote that in the Supremes that Mary Wilson proved to be the buffer with the exact sound between her vocals and Florence. Smokey Robinson had a hit or miss history with the Supremes-The Composer is one of their songs I rarely ever listened to and did not care for. His work on Floy Joy was very good for Wilson as she did fine on her lead lines on Floy Joy and Automatically Sunshine and A Heart Like Mine set the pace for the ballads to follow on Jimmy Webb, The Supremes, High Energy and Mary, Scherrie & Susaye. I certainly would not have liked to hear her sing remakes of Smokey songs in 1979. I think a duet would have been nice, think their voices and style would have complimented each other.

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by RanRan79 View Post
    Y'all be taking these "just for fun...what if" questions too seriously. We all know this had no real world chance.

    Just for fun, what if it did happen? I think it may have been a very nice album. While I love Smokey's poeticism, after his first three solo albums, most, if not all that followed leave me with a "meh" feeling. But he did have a winning combination with Mary Wells and then Wanda Rogers. He really gave Wanda something that brought out the beauty in her voice, which personally prior to Smokey getting hold of her I never thought Wanda was much of a singer. Smokey's writing and productions with her on lead (and later solo) changed my mind. The stuff he did with Mary on Floy Joy was great. He didn't force her to belt. He gave her music she could silky smooth her way through. I've read some fans think "A Heart Like Mine" is boring, but for me it's one of my absolute favorite Supreme cuts from the 70s. Mary sounds fantastic and she doesn't even have to do much. So having said that, I feel like if Smokey was producing Mary in the late 70s, he may have been able to do for her what he didn't always do for himself. Of course if he could've produced an album for her filled with "Cruisin" caliber tunes it might have been a winner.

    well Ran - you've pointed out many times before that i seem to have some sort of problem with Smokey lol. and yes, many of his lyrics if find too silly and corny.

    I do like the Floy Joy set and agree that Smokey found ways to bring out some of Mary's strengths. I think her lead lines on Automatically Sunshine are breathy, sexy, misty. love them. but then i think A Heart Like Mine just sort of plods along. I find Mary's vocals here to be too predictive and bland. she doesn't really display the character that she did with her vocals on AS

    so as for a solo lp in 79, i'm not sure. i guess a "quiet storm" sort of sound might have worked. but disco was SO big and Mary's name and sound so not aligned to that, i think it wouldn't have sold much better than what we got.

    Perhaps if they had done a few tunes in the vein of You're What's Missing or Pick Up The Pieces from her solo album

  18. #18
    Wasn't disco on its last days by 1979? The real "what if" is if Mary hadn't rushed into her solo debut and waited another year or two? I wonder what we would have gotten from her in 1980 or 1981, with an LP not so disco heavy.

  19. #19
    For Mary to have success, I think she had to go out on her own by the end of 1971 - and she didn’t have the confidence for that. By the time she left, the Supremes were dead and no one cared who left or stayed - the hits were over and their final album, Mary Scherrie and Susaye didn’t even chart on the Billboard Top 200

  20. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by marybrewster View Post
    Wasn't disco on its last days by 1979?
    It peaked in 1979. Bonnie Pointer was able to have a top ten disco cover on Motown released in June.

    For a Smokey album, I could easily see six new Smokey tunes (along the lines of Cruising or Being with You) suited to Mary's voice. But also he could have used two of his old songs (say 'Get Ready' and 'Going to a Go Go') as disco singles to fill out the album.

    Something like that might have worked. But all hypothetical of course!

  21. #21
    Well all I can say is that I find it so odd that people think that Marys vocals are so limited, when most pop artists are incredibly limited. It just takes the right song and the right production. "Limited vocalists" who have been huge over the years include Madonna, Janet Jackson, Jody Whatley, Macy Gray, and many, many others. not everybody needs to be Chaka Khan--the average music fan is not all that discriminating.

  22. #22
    Quote Originally Posted by jobeterob View Post
    Regardless of who she worked with or hoped to work with, regardless of her disagreements with Motown, Berry and anyone else, the reason she never got a decent contract and none of the purported projects ever got off the ground is that she is a very limited singer.
    I disagree with that opinion. For one, I think that Mary's range really grew when she discovered (perhaps with the help of her vocal coach?) just how much she could do with her gift and as her self confidence grew. I think what hindered her more than anything was not having savvy people in her corner. Mary, much like Diana, don't appear to me to have been gifted with good music business sense. When you don't have that, you have to have someone in your corner who does have it or you pretty much get nowhere in the business. Add to that the fact that Mary didn't leave the Supremes at 25 like Diana did, and she was a 30 something- to 40 something year old in the 1980s trying to get record deals in a business that was becoming more and more notoriously youth focused. But even that could've been a hurdled obstacle if Mary had good managers and agents. The fact that she did capitalize off of her book's major success with anything musical is probably my #1 Mary Fail. (Number two might be RTL, in case anyone was wondering.)

  23. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by Ollie9 View Post
    Like many other performers, Mary is a singer whose songs need to be tailored to her singing style. Diana is lucky in having a light, lilting vocal style that can make even mediocre songs sound just that bit better. I don’t think that necessarily makes Mary any less of a singer.
    I think Mary working with Smokey might have proved very interesting. I have always thought she could easily have stepped into Mary Wells shoes had she not been a Supreme. The Floy Joy album provides a glimpse as to what might have been.
    Diana's voice isn't one typically described as rangy either. The reason why she's able to traverse so many different genres is because of her insane lyric interpretation skills, which is not something I feel is in Mary's wheelhouse. On it's own, it almost doesn't make sense that Diana has had the effect she has had on music, but she's able to take what God gave her naturally and pair it with her interpretation instincts and strike a cord with listeners. IMO that's a rarity. One of the other few who have it this way IMO is Aretha. Aretha was going to give you soul no matter what, but she could jump from genre to genre and maintain a captive audience because of the way she interpreted the song. She, like Diana, had a way of getting into the meat of the story, the emotion of the song, and leaving you with your mouth open. I wouldn't describe Mary that way, but as you say none of that makes Mary any less of a singer. The lady has a remarkable talent and is one of the few legends in the game whose voice is still in top notch shape.

  24. #24
    Quote Originally Posted by sup_fan View Post
    well Ran - you've pointed out many times before that i seem to have some sort of problem with Smokey lol. and yes, many of his lyrics if find too silly and corny.

    I do like the Floy Joy set and agree that Smokey found ways to bring out some of Mary's strengths. I think her lead lines on Automatically Sunshine are breathy, sexy, misty. love them. but then i think A Heart Like Mine just sort of plods along. I find Mary's vocals here to be too predictive and bland. she doesn't really display the character that she did with her vocals on AS

    so as for a solo lp in 79, i'm not sure. i guess a "quiet storm" sort of sound might have worked. but disco was SO big and Mary's name and sound so not aligned to that, i think it wouldn't have sold much better than what we got.

    Perhaps if they had done a few tunes in the vein of You're What's Missing or Pick Up The Pieces from her solo album
    If pairing Smokey with Mary, Quiet Storm was the only way to go. Maybe a couple mid tempo cuts, like "You're What's Missing". Stevie producing Mary is intriguing. Would've been an interesting combo.

  25. #25
    To me, Mary could have fit into a Sade/Adele mode. Every few years someone like this emerges on the scene--they are good singers but not fantastically gifted, and they do music that appeals to grown ups. Anita Baker is another one. You can have a good career for decades, which Mary has kind of done on her own without a record contract. Oh well, water under the bridge. These women are all senior citizens and I hope they have enough money to live in the older years. i recently saw that Melba Moore was homeless for a time. Seems tragic

  26. #26
    Quote Originally Posted by jobeterob View Post
    For Mary to have success, I think she had to go out on her own by the end of 1971 - and she didn’t have the confidence for that. By the time she left, the Supremes were dead and no one cared who left or stayed - the hits were over and their final album, Mary Scherrie and Susaye didn’t even chart on the Billboard Top 200
    As I said above, I think there were more possibilities for Mary, but I do think your scenario was her best chance. As I've said so many times in this forum, Gordy should've structured the group to end in 1970 so that all three (this scenario includes Florence, not Cindy) could exit with solo careers. Had Mary been given attention in the 60s, maybe her confidence would've been built up to be able to take on a solo career that early. There were a lot of folks invested in the Supremes during the 60s. Gordy could've concentrated on Diana and let someone else focus on the other two. When they left the group, each lady would have her own lane based on her strengths. Gordy loved money but he put all of his money on this one thing. Luckily for him it paid off, although we know how fragile an early solo career can be on any singer. He could've turned the one golden goose into three. Maybe if someone had explained to him that it would be three bank accounts he could rip off instead of one he may have made some different decisions.

  27. #27
    But Berry and Motown did get two reasonable silver geese through to about the middle of 1972 - and then one of the geese stopped laying.

  28. #28
    Quote Originally Posted by RanRan79 View Post
    Diana's voice isn't one typically described as rangy either. The reason why she's able to traverse so many different genres is because of her insane lyric interpretation skills, which is not something I feel is in Mary's wheelhouse. On it's own, it almost doesn't make sense that Diana has had the effect she has had on music, but she's able to take what God gave her naturally and pair it with her interpretation instincts and strike a cord with listeners. IMO that's a rarity. One of the other few who have it this way IMO is Aretha. Aretha was going to give you soul no matter what, but she could jump from genre to genre and maintain a captive audience because of the way she interpreted the song. She, like Diana, had a way of getting into the meat of the story, the emotion of the song, and leaving you with your mouth open. I wouldn't describe Mary that way, but as you say none of that makes Mary any less of a singer. The lady has a remarkable talent and is one of the few legends in the game whose voice is still in top notch shape.
    Agree that Diana is not particularly noted for her incredible vocal range.
    Mary was actually quite high profile in 79, proving the media were still very much interested in the name Supremes. There were many articles featured on her not only in the music press but many other mainstream media outlets as well.
    I have always felt the album was her big chance that sadly for her Motown squandered.
    Last edited by Ollie9; 01-05-2021 at 01:28 PM.

  29. #29
    Quote Originally Posted by RanRan79 View Post
    As I said above, I think there were more possibilities for Mary, but I do think your scenario was her best chance. As I've said so many times in this forum, Gordy should've structured the group to end in 1970 so that all three (this scenario includes Florence, not Cindy) could exit with solo careers. Had Mary been given attention in the 60s, maybe her confidence would've been built up to be able to take on a solo career that early. There were a lot of folks invested in the Supremes during the 60s. Gordy could've concentrated on Diana and let someone else focus on the other two. When they left the group, each lady would have her own lane based on her strengths. Gordy loved money but he put all of his money on this one thing. Luckily for him it paid off, although we know how fragile an early solo career can be on any singer. He could've turned the one golden goose into three. Maybe if someone had explained to him that it would be three bank accounts he could rip off instead of one he may have made some different decisions.
    not sure i agree with the idea of each woman going solo. some performers shine best as an individual and others do best as part of an ensemble. both are perfectly acceptable routes and one isn't necessarily better than the other.

    by 1970 the Supremes were a hugely marketable brand and product. so to disband them at that time would have been foolish. there was still a lot of money to be made with the group. records (mostly the 45s) continued to sell quite well and the live act was booked pretty solidly through 72. the real problem IMO was overall mismanagement and poor decisions

    Diana works well as a single artist due to her broad range of singing styles and capabilities - her concerts easily incorporated jazz, disco, pop, ballads, showtunes, etc with her singing covering all genres. Plus she really had a dynamic personality that worked well as "Mistress of Ceremonies" to lead the overall show

    Mary and Flo's personalities seemed to work better with an ensemble. Each woman taking on a different role and bouncing off of each other. Flo's wonderful comic timing probably wouldn't have worked as well without someone to bounce the lines off of. Also both women had very good voices but they might not have had the vocal adaptability to cover as many genres. Again, that's why as a group you can share the leads and therefore cover those tunes.

  30. #30
    One thing I always found baffling about Mary is that she seems to have two singing voices. One is that breathy, almost Marilyn Monroe sounding whisper that she used on Heart Like Mine and I Keep it Hid. It works fine on those songs but that sound will never pierce through the airwaves on radio, as Jean Terrell's voice did, or DR's did. Then you have mary's other voice which is straight up Gladys Knight or Donna Summer--bold, strong and it easily cuts through any and all orchestration (Do Right Woman, Danced My Heart Around the Stars, Walk the Line.) this voice would work well on the radio. I find Mary to be kind of frustrating as a live artist. I have seen her absolutely bring the house down many times. Other times it's like she isn't even trying very hard. Have you guys heard her do Baby Love in that 1976 Germany live clip? She basically speaks half the words instead of singing them. She has the perfect voice for that mediocre song, but she does a lazy job on it. Very frustrating to me because I wanted her to do well. I mean come on, she can blow the roof the place singing Do Right Woman, but she can't handle Baby Love? Doesn't even make sense.

  31. #31
    Quote Originally Posted by Ollie9 View Post
    Agree that Diana is not particularly noted for her incredible vocal range.
    Mary was actually quite high profile in 79, proving the media were still very much interested in the name Supremes. There were many articles featured on her not only in the music press but many other mainstream media outlets as well.
    I have always felt the album was her big chance that sadly for her Motown squandered.
    Agreed. Media attention could only get a singer so far. The product has to be right. There was a ton of media attention for Florence when she left too, but she wasn't pushing anything that anyone could "reasonably" expect to compete with the best that was out at that time. I guess Mary's debut could've worked with what she had if maybe a different first single was issued. "Red Hot" was...just no. No. "Midnight Dancer", "I Love Warm Summer Nights" and "You Make Me Feel So Good" IMO would've all made better debut dance singles than "Red Hot". And while "Pick Up the Pieces" is by far my favorite song on the album and really the only one I have confidence in becoming a hit at the time if pushed, going with a dance number as the first single makes sense since the album is mostly a disco album. "Red Hot" is a great title for a song, especially for a singer as sexy as Mary Wilson, but beyond the title that song sucks. Pushing it out as the first single was evidence #2 that Motown wasn't looking to do anything for Mary Wilson, solo artist. (Evidence #1 was the album itself.)

  32. #32
    Quote Originally Posted by sup_fan View Post
    not sure i agree with the idea of each woman going solo. some performers shine best as an individual and others do best as part of an ensemble. both are perfectly acceptable routes and one isn't necessarily better than the other.

    by 1970 the Supremes were a hugely marketable brand and product. so to disband them at that time would have been foolish. there was still a lot of money to be made with the group. records (mostly the 45s) continued to sell quite well and the live act was booked pretty solidly through 72. the real problem IMO was overall mismanagement and poor decisions

    Diana works well as a single artist due to her broad range of singing styles and capabilities - her concerts easily incorporated jazz, disco, pop, ballads, showtunes, etc with her singing covering all genres. Plus she really had a dynamic personality that worked well as "Mistress of Ceremonies" to lead the overall show

    Mary and Flo's personalities seemed to work better with an ensemble. Each woman taking on a different role and bouncing off of each other. Flo's wonderful comic timing probably wouldn't have worked as well without someone to bounce the lines off of. Also both women had very good voices but they might not have had the vocal adaptability to cover as many genres. Again, that's why as a group you can share the leads and therefore cover those tunes.
    I don't think it would've been a foolish idea if the group disbanded into three separate entities making the label money, like the Beatles. And maybe after a certain amount of time the three could've come together for a reunion album every few years or so.

    When it comes to Flo and Mary's personalities and how well they worked as a solo artist, what is the evidence? Mary didn't go solo until well into her 30s and we still have yet to get any audio of a Flo solo live performance. So it's easy to say they worked well in a group setting because that's mainly how we know them, compared to Ross who has a ton of evidence of her solo abilities, like a 50 year legendary career evidence.

    Lets be real: becoming a successful singer is mostly luck. The Supremes, Diana included, were lucky (as well as talented). Several things came together to align and make them the success story they became. Diana's solo career was basically launched while she was still a Supreme. While one could argue that with time and attention as a solo artist from the beginning that she would've grown into the legend we love today, the fact is that no one, not even Gordy, thought she was "good" enough on her own, or he would've signed her to a record deal back in 1961 instead of signing her with three other singers some opine he didn't really care for. But she did get the time and the attention and thus was able to catapult to superstardom on her own. Flo and Mary didn't get that, so to compare them is a bit lopsided, if going by variable for variable.

    What works for one, doesn't work for another. There is only one Diana Ross. Expecting Flo or Mary to sing everything she sang or perform the way she did or have the same effect on an audience just doesn't seem fair to me. Diana packed them in with what she could do. Others who packed folks in and captivated audiences: Aretha, Gladys, Roberta Flack, Dionne Warwick, singers as different as night and day in many ways. None of them could do what Diana did onstage. Each lady had her own thing. Why should Flo and Mary have been any different? They had their own unique thing going on. Motown could've capitalized off of that, or attempted to. Maybe it would've worked, maybe it wouldn't have. Diana's solo career started off with a little noise in "Reach Out and Touch". What if she had not gotten "Mountain"? What if Gordy had his way and not released "Mountain"? She didn't have another mega hit song after "Mountain" for three years. What if everyone who could've said "no way" to her acting as Billie Holliday had actually said "no way"? What kind of conversation are we having about Diana Ross today? For the record I believe if she didn't get the hits and the hit movies, she still would've put her stamp on the music game with her live shows and probably critically acclaimed albums anyway, but those first solo successes would've been misses if not for some luck strokes. Solo wise, Flo and Mary didn't get much luck.

  33. #33
    well we have to sort of make assumptions here or go off of whatever content is available.

    For Flo, there's such a limited amount of content. her only live lead is on the handful of People that we've received. and frankly i've never found those to be awe inspiring renditions. then we have a handful of her studio work. some are excellent, most are average and some are rather bad. based on the material we have, i've made the assumption that, vocally, she doesn't have the adaptability than other singers do.

    Mary in 1970 was a very limited singer IMO. her solo performance on Hollywood Palace of Can't Take My Eyes is acceptable at best. but trying to build a 60 minute show around her would be a major challenge. based on her 70s performance, the high octane dance songs are NOT a strength for her, light bubbly pop doesn't work either. So again as with Flo, she doesn't have the adaptability.

    You mention Aretha and other artists. Aretha might approach the vast majority of her work from a gospel perspective. but her gospel capabilities border on virtuoso so that can be expected. yes it doesn't have the variety but she's so incredibly good at what she does, it's warranted.

    all of this though is arguing a false argument that "solo" work is somehow preferable or superior to "group" work. while F and M might not have the broadest vocal capabilities, they're both excellent entertainers and they really developed strong and unique stage personalities. they were never just two anonymous girls humming and swaying behind Diana. I think the idea to continue the Sups as powerful group post Diana was the right one. it's just that, IMO, bad decisions were made which eroded the group's public perception and sales

  34. #34
    Quote Originally Posted by BobbyC View Post
    One thing I always found baffling about Mary is that she seems to have two singing voices. One is that breathy, almost Marilyn Monroe sounding whisper that she used on Heart Like Mine and I Keep it Hid. It works fine on those songs but that sound will never pierce through the airwaves on radio, as Jean Terrell's voice did, or DR's did. Then you have mary's other voice which is straight up Gladys Knight or Donna Summer--bold, strong and it easily cuts through any and all orchestration (Do Right Woman, Danced My Heart Around the Stars, Walk the Line.) this voice would work well on the radio. I find Mary to be kind of frustrating as a live artist. I have seen her absolutely bring the house down many times. Other times it's like she isn't even trying very hard. Have you guys heard her do Baby Love in that 1976 Germany live clip? She basically speaks half the words instead of singing them. She has the perfect voice for that mediocre song, but she does a lazy job on it. Very frustrating to me because I wanted her to do well. I mean come on, she can blow the roof the place singing Do Right Woman, but she can't handle Baby Love? Doesn't even make sense.
    I agree about her two types of singing voice, although generally i think she cut down on the breathy approach as the years progressed.
    Disagree on “Baby Love”. Those pop valentines have never really suited her Smokey vocals.. Give me “ If I Were Your Woman” any day of the week.

  35. #35
    Quote Originally Posted by Ollie9 View Post
    I agree about her two types of singing voice, although generally i think she cut down on the breathy approach as the years progressed.
    Disagree on “Baby Love”. Those pop valentines have never really suited her Smokey vocals.. Give me “ If I Were Your Woman” any day of the week.
    agree. i think as time went by, she learned how to adapt her voice based on the song. a bubbly pop song like Baby Love was never her forte. But listen to her on Auto Sunshine. i adore her vocals there. even just the little embellishment of how she sort of cracks her voice on "where you go, i'll go follow"

  36. #36
    Hold on, everybody. I'm just saying that Mary should sing Baby Love, not speak it. To me, it just doesn't work like that. And yeah I would take pretty much any song over Baby Love. How that song was bigger than Where Did Our Love Go I'll never understand.There's nothing to it.

  37. #37
    Quote Originally Posted by BobbyC View Post
    Hold on, everybody. I'm just saying that Mary should sing Baby Love, not speak it. To me, it just doesn't work like that. And yeah I would take pretty much any song over Baby Love. How that song was bigger than Where Did Our Love Go I'll never understand.There's nothing to it.
    Its just that you said you mentioned Mary’s voice was perfect for the song Bobby. As regards “Baby Love”, i think it a great pop song that i may have heard just a little to often.

  38. #38
    Ollie--don't go listening to every bit of nonsense that comes out of my yap.

  39. #39
    Quote Originally Posted by BobbyC View Post
    Ollie--don't go listening to every bit of nonsense that comes out of my yap.
    I will try my hardest Bob’s.

  40. #40
    Quote Originally Posted by sup_fan View Post
    well we have to sort of make assumptions here or go off of whatever content is available.

    For Flo, there's such a limited amount of content. her only live lead is on the handful of People that we've received. and frankly i've never found those to be awe inspiring renditions. then we have a handful of her studio work. some are excellent, most are average and some are rather bad. based on the material we have, i've made the assumption that, vocally, she doesn't have the adaptability than other singers do.

    Mary in 1970 was a very limited singer IMO. her solo performance on Hollywood Palace of Can't Take My Eyes is acceptable at best. but trying to build a 60 minute show around her would be a major challenge. based on her 70s performance, the high octane dance songs are NOT a strength for her, light bubbly pop doesn't work either. So again as with Flo, she doesn't have the adaptability.

    You mention Aretha and other artists. Aretha might approach the vast majority of her work from a gospel perspective. but her gospel capabilities border on virtuoso so that can be expected. yes it doesn't have the variety but she's so incredibly good at what she does, it's warranted.

    all of this though is arguing a false argument that "solo" work is somehow preferable or superior to "group" work. while F and M might not have the broadest vocal capabilities, they're both excellent entertainers and they really developed strong and unique stage personalities. they were never just two anonymous girls humming and swaying behind Diana. I think the idea to continue the Sups as powerful group post Diana was the right one. it's just that, IMO, bad decisions were made which eroded the group's public perception and sales
    Oh no, I wouldn't dare suggest that solo is preferable to a group- I love groups too much. However, when dealing with groups, that's a tough challenge. Everything regarding your career hinges on the people in the group, as we saw with the events leading up to Flo's firing. And you have to split the money. A lot of singers in groups who feel their talented enough to sing on stage alone eventually opt for that and I don't personally believe that either Flo or Mary would've been satisfied remaining Supremes for the rest of their lives, especially once Diana went solo and was able to garner attention all for herself. Don't forget there is a lot of ego involved in being in the entertainment industry, and for all the flack that Diana gets for her ego, truth is Flo had one also.

    So my hypothesis is that the Supremes had to end eventually. Why not do it when Diana left? Personally I feel Flo's talent was good enough to sing a song alone. Did she have some misses? Yup. There aint a singer alive who hasn't. And while I'm not always "wowed" by Mary's singing, I think with the right songs she could have found a place. Not to mention both Flo and Mary had star quality. Both were gorgeous. Like I said, let Gordy focus on readying Diana, let someone else take on Flo and another take on Mary. Post 1970 Diana is having a couple hits and on her way to a hit movie; Flo has a couple hits and probably a movie role; Mary has a couple hits and maybe a lot of product endorsements. All of this is money in Motown's pocket. The Supremes were among the biggest stars in the world. By 1970, they each should've been able to exit the Supremes and fart out a hit single. If Ringo Starr can have hits after the Beatles, no one will convince me that Flo and Mary weren't capable.

  41. #41
    I think the big problem with Mary singing Diana led songs is that some of those songs are hard for anyone other than Diana to pull off, "Baby Love" in particular. And by the time Mary started singing this stuff, her voice had gotten a bit huskier than it used to be, not to mention she was 30 something and the song just seems silly coming out of a singer who isn't extremely young or Diana Ross. Now I do think with some tailoring, 1964 Mary could've sung "Baby Love". She did have this cutie pie vibe to her voice so it may have worked. But copying it and trying to do it during the revolving Supremes door years or now...I think we can all do without that particular performance.

  42. #42
    Quote Originally Posted by RanRan79 View Post
    I think the big problem with Mary singing Diana led songs is that some of those songs are hard for anyone other than Diana to pull off, "Baby Love" in particular. And by the time Mary started singing this stuff, her voice had gotten a bit huskier than it used to be, not to mention she was 30 something and the song just seems silly coming out of a singer who isn't extremely young or Diana Ross. Now I do think with some tailoring, 1964 Mary could've sung "Baby Love". She did have this cutie pie vibe to her voice so it may have worked. But copying it and trying to do it during the revolving Supremes door years or now...I think we can all do without that particular performance.
    “Baby Love” is just to cutesy and not really Mary’s vibe at all. Her singing the song is the equivalent of Diana tackling “I Am Changing”.

  43. #43
    Very good points all the way around.I agree that Mary seems to have trouble with songs DR seems to handle easily, and vice versa. And no I can't see DR singing I Am Changing, just like I can't see Mary singing Do You know Where You're Going To. Diana sounded so good on that song--the tone was just fantastic. That song was when DR, IMO, became a really great song interpreter.

  44. #44
    Quote Originally Posted by RanRan79 View Post
    Oh no, I wouldn't dare suggest that solo is preferable to a group- I love groups too much. However, when dealing with groups, that's a tough challenge. Everything regarding your career hinges on the people in the group, as we saw with the events leading up to Flo's firing. And you have to split the money. A lot of singers in groups who feel their talented enough to sing on stage alone eventually opt for that and I don't personally believe that either Flo or Mary would've been satisfied remaining Supremes for the rest of their lives, especially once Diana went solo and was able to garner attention all for herself. Don't forget there is a lot of ego involved in being in the entertainment industry, and for all the flack that Diana gets for her ego, truth is Flo had one also.

    So my hypothesis is that the Supremes had to end eventually. Why not do it when Diana left? Personally I feel Flo's talent was good enough to sing a song alone. Did she have some misses? Yup. There aint a singer alive who hasn't. And while I'm not always "wowed" by Mary's singing, I think with the right songs she could have found a place. Not to mention both Flo and Mary had star quality. Both were gorgeous. Like I said, let Gordy focus on readying Diana, let someone else take on Flo and another take on Mary. Post 1970 Diana is having a couple hits and on her way to a hit movie; Flo has a couple hits and probably a movie role; Mary has a couple hits and maybe a lot of product endorsements. All of this is money in Motown's pocket. The Supremes were among the biggest stars in the world. By 1970, they each should've been able to exit the Supremes and fart out a hit single. If Ringo Starr can have hits after the Beatles, no one will convince me that Flo and Mary weren't capable.
    i agree with the general notion that both M and F demonstrated they had enough star and entertainer qualities to warrant some investment by motown. again, i think that investment should have come in the form of advancing the group. completely agree with you that a group has it's own set of challenges, since you're dealing with multiple people. putting that aside, i think projects and activities that highlighted each member or allowed each to grow could still be found. and of course while still in the group, they could do individual activities. it's not that all 3 Supremes are conjoined twins and can't branch out here and there. Scherrie has done plenty of solo and outside work while still leading the Former Ladies.

  45. #45
    Quote Originally Posted by Ollie9 View Post
    “Baby Love” is just to cutesy and not really Mary’s vibe at all. Her singing the song is the equivalent of Diana tackling “I Am Changing”.
    Yeah, now. But I wouldn't rule it out in 1964. Mary always- to me- had the quintessential "girl group" voice, a lot like Shirley from the Shirelles, but with more range. Young Mary had this "cry" to her voice at times, and I think it would've lent itself well to the lyrics of "Baby Love".

    Diana doing "I Am Changing"? No. Just no. Nope, nope, nope.

  46. #46
    Quote Originally Posted by sup_fan View Post
    i agree with the general notion that both M and F demonstrated they had enough star and entertainer qualities to warrant some investment by motown. again, i think that investment should have come in the form of advancing the group. completely agree with you that a group has it's own set of challenges, since you're dealing with multiple people. putting that aside, i think projects and activities that highlighted each member or allowed each to grow could still be found. and of course while still in the group, they could do individual activities. it's not that all 3 Supremes are conjoined twins and can't branch out here and there. Scherrie has done plenty of solo and outside work while still leading the Former Ladies.
    I really would've loved to hear Flo do some of the Stax type stuff. "Like You Babe" is one of my favs from her solo stuff and it comes across as a Stax knockoff demo. Mary I think had the possibilities to handle Dionne Warwick type songs, and then as the 70s progressed, Roberta Flack. Flo's gospel, blues background makes soul probably what she would've excelled in. Mary has always spoken about her love of jazz, and I think her smoky vocals are right in line with that and easy listening.

  47. #47
    Quote Originally Posted by RanRan79 View Post
    I really would've loved to hear Flo do some of the Stax type stuff. "Like You Babe" is one of my favs from her solo stuff and it comes across as a Stax knockoff demo. Mary I think had the possibilities to handle Dionne Warwick type songs, and then as the 70s progressed, Roberta Flack. Flo's gospel, blues background makes soul probably what she would've excelled in. Mary has always spoken about her love of jazz, and I think her smoky vocals are right in line with that and easy listening.
    completely agree with your thoughts here. looking at the last Sup album (MS&S) it seems that the Hollands at least attempted to find different vehicles for each woman. Mary, Scherrie and Susaye each had unique talents and songs seems to highlight that nicely. even in their shared leads on Dream Machine. I don't know how much forethought really went into the writing and selection of each song but the results seem to show that there was.

    As opposed to live when they simply handed Susaye (again i'm assuming here) the musical charts for People or He Ain't Heavy. my guess is they needed a solo spotlight for her and just used existing music rather than working with her to identify and develop an perfect song.

    so as you mention with F and M, there were definitely opportunities to focus on their talents had management so desired.

  48. #48
    Quote Originally Posted by sup_fan View Post
    i agree with the general notion that both M and F demonstrated they had enough star and entertainer qualities to warrant some investment by motown. again, i think that investment should have come in the form of advancing the group. completely agree with you that a group has it's own set of challenges, since you're dealing with multiple people.
    In hindsight, I think the best decision would have been to have Diana Ross leave The Supremes sometime in mid-to-late 1967.

    With the HDH work slow-down and Florence's erratic behavior and Mary being disgruntled, to some extent, maybe 1967 was the time to accelerate plans for Diana to leave the group. Florence and Mary could hire a third woman and continue as The Supremes. I'm sure Motown could have found plenty of appropriate material for them to record. I think it might have been easier for The Supremes to reinvent themselves in the late 60s rather than in the early 70s which was more competitive and more musically diverse. Or it might have been their time to say goodbye. Success or not, in the long run, would be up to them.

    Reflections was in the can by May 1967 so it could have been a final release coinciding with a farewell tour that year. If DMF continuing to tour as a group was not feasible then The Happening would be their last release with Diana, while Reflections would be the first solo single for Diana.

    It seems that by 1967 Mary and Florence, in Motown’s eyes, had become less important to the group. After Florence was dismissed, Mary and Cindy seemed more like props than full group members. I think that worked at a disadvantage for both The Supremes and Diana, as to how they were each perceived.

    The singles released after Reflections would have served as Diana solo singles with pretty much the same result as for DRATS. Maybe 1969 - a dreadful year for DRATS releases - might have fared better for DR solo material (Keep An Eye or Evening Train as single releases, for example).

    The Ed Sullivan Show and other variety shows continued through the end of the decade and a bit beyond so I think both The Supremes and Diana would still be a draw for these shows. T.C.B. could still star Diana Ross with guest stars The Supremes and The Temptations.

    So basically had Diana left in 1967 her career, regarding single and album releases, as well as personal appearances on TV would probably remain the same and maybe fare better. The Supremes might not have been as successful on the charts but a reinvented group might have allowed Mary and Florence to hone their own skills and talents to use as a springboard for other opportunities in the entertainment field - or not.

  49. #49
    Cindy even mentions that early on, there was still quite a bit of group interaction and harmony. but pretty soon D and B started to separate themselves more and M and C were pretty much just left to their own devices. they were recording less, their choreography was reduced, there are a couple bits here and there in songs (like Somewhere) where their parts were reduced from before.

    the lens was clearly and obviously being further focused onto diana.

    i do agree with his thinking that to break Diana out as a soloist in 67 would have been premature for her. but yes, it might have helped the group

  50. #50
    G
    Quote Originally Posted by sup_fan View Post
    completely agree with your thoughts here. looking at the last Sup album (MS&S) it seems that the Hollands at least attempted to find different vehicles for each woman. Mary, Scherrie and Susaye each had unique talents and songs seems to highlight that nicely. even in their shared leads on Dream Machine. I don't know how much forethought really went into the writing and selection of each song but the results seem to show that there was.
    Agree, that is what makes the MS&S album so special. All three Women are each given songs that highlight their individual vocal talents. When sharing leads, the diversity in their voices makes for an exciting sound. Another major factor of course is that all three members were more then capable of singing lead. The production on the album is amazing for 76. It still sounds fresh and relevant here in 2021.
    I wonder which direction the group would have gone in had they recorded another album together?. Perhaps a name change to Mary Wilson & The Supremes might have made MW reconsider her solo plans.

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