[REMOVE ADS]




Results 1 to 4 of 4
  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Posts
    404
    Rep Power
    145

    60 years of the Supremes

    In 1961, the Supremes were signed to Motown and in 1964 they had their first #1 hit. So much has been written or suggested or assumed about the group. I have my own perceptions that I wanted to share. Keep in mind, I did not become a fan until 1970 when I bought my first record Up The Ladder To The Roof so much of what I perceive is what I saw going back and not living through it. When they hit in 1964, they became nearly as big as the Beatles and Elvis. The group had something special going for it as each member gave their own unique talent to the group and together they formed something that was perfect playing off of each other. They had Diana Ross, who had a very unique voice that was distinctive, untrained and very pliable to many genres. She also was quite exotic looking with her huge, saucer eyes, big smile and rail thin frame. She easily caught your attention. They had Florence Ballard who had a huge, booming voice much like Etta James.She had a fun, playful manner, an impish smile and was quite comedic as well as looking very down to earth even when dressed elegantly. She caught your eye as well as your ears. They had Mary Wilson. She was quite beautiful, very elegant and performed their dance routines with precision and grace. She had beauty,natural style and elegance. And Mary's voice was perfect to carry the sound between Diana and Florence to give them a beautiful and rich harmony plus her vocal tones were deep and rich with a great deal of warmth. Her sound really helped pull you in because of that warmth to make the Supremes a unit. Naturally, the lead singer garnered a lot of attention but like the Beatles all of the members helped round out their appeal and gave the group an identity with each of them having a recognizable identity to the public. In 1967, Florence was no longer in the group and it became Diana Ross & The Supremes. For that period until Ross forged her solo career it basically was just Diana Ross. As Mary Wilson stated herself that the Supremes[[she) stayed back and allowed Diana to use the group as a springboard during this time. It was no longer a group. They recruited the beloved Cindy Birdsong. She looked somewhat like Florence but had a completely different sound and personae. Cindy had a softer, sweeter voice and she did not project the earthiness Florence had but looked as comfortable and as elegant as Mary & Diana in their sequin period. Cindy & Mary were further in the background and Cindy had a much softer voice, causing Mary to be the louder, stronger sound in the background. Mary also retained her elegance but became more animated in the background probably because the group was no longer side by side as a group. Cindy and Mary managed a beautiful visual background blend. This period had far more gowns and all 3 managed to look elegant in their gowns. Cindy looked stunning, Mary always looked beautiful and she seemed to relish this look as it complimented her beauty and sexiness, Diana almost looked theatrical in her gowns and makeup, she truly was getting her trademark looks more polished in this era. I think had Ross left to be a solo she may not have succeeded as well as she did in 1970. Mary was right she used the Supremes during this time to gain what was necessary to forge ahead. In 1970, Diana left and was replaced by Jean Terrell. Jean had a very high and distinctive voice like Diana did and she seemed to sound like a cross between Diana and Dionne Warwick. Terrell did not have the charisma that Ross had even though she had a better voice. In fact, Mary and Cindy seemed to work overtime to supply sparkle and charisma as each was finding their participation in the group upped. They did fairly well until Cindy left in 1972. She was replaced by Lynda Laurence, who somewhat resembled Cindy. Lynda had a strong voice but the blend with Mary was off. She looked fine in the glamor gowns and provided a fresh look when they wore more modern looks. Lynda had the perfect mid 70's look and sound. Yet, the group started to stumble with the 2 singles she was on only hitting the bottom of the top 100. Jean and Lynda were upset and frustrated and wanted to leave Motown. Mary was an Original Supreme-she had worked hard to keep the Supremes going and she wasn't about to abandon her dream just yet. She recruited Cindy to come back and even though Cindy was gone less than 2 years, she had gained baby weight but she still looked and sounded great. Mary found Scherrie Payne. She was very tiny but with a powerful voice that had great control, gusto and strength.Unlike Terrell, she was quite glamorous and had something visually special that made you take notice. Visually this grouping may have been arguably the most beautiful and they had harmony that nearly rivaled the original group. Scherrie's voice had Mary's tone and Florence's strength. She was not an attempt to copy Ross or Terrell. In ways, the sound may have been what the group would have been had Ballard stayed and taken over the lead spot. By 1976, Cindy left again and was replaced by Susaye Greene. Technically, the group never had this much talent what with Wilson's ability for harmony warmth and to carry ballads so beautifully, with Payne's strong voice carrying the dance numbers to the stratosphere and Greene with her multi octave range and distinct high voice providing soul and great ad libs to enhance the songs. Visually, having two members so tiny threw the visual balance off a bit and they were much better in the studio than performing together but when they got it right it was dynamite. Mary finally decided in 1977, it was time to stop. Ross had gone on to become Motown's superstar. Ballard had recorded songs for ABC that went unreleased, she left public life and passed away in 1976 at just 32. Jean Terrell had been back & forth with a single A&M release that she refused to tour for, she currently is in the business world. Birdsong eventually tried a solo effort in 1987 and then became a minister. She is currently unwell and retired from public life years ago due to her health. Lynda became one of the former ladies of the Supremes, touring and eventually she retired a few years ago to pursue other endeavors. Scherrie Payne is a member of FLOs as well as doing solo work. She continues to tour to this day. Susaye Greene did some solo work, wrote songs and is touring now with Scherrie as well as being an artist. Mary Wilson passed away in February. Her strength of character helped her become a popular touring artist and the true carrier of the legacy of the Supremes. If Mary had not been here, I truly believe that the Supremes' history would have been forgotten. She was truly the one who carried on the legacy of the group with tours, the gown collection, her interviews, books and involvement for artists rights. 60 years later, we just need to celebrate the group and each individual who was a part of the Supremes legacy.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Posts
    451
    Rep Power
    141
    Thank you, jim, for your excellent analysis of The Supremes. Much appreciated!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Posts
    2,514
    Rep Power
    145
    very nice read.

    I believe you are correct in Diana Ross' timing and waiting until 1970 to depart. also, there is something psychological that prepares us , makes it more acceptable for change, as a decade changes. A new era ....
    Last edited by Boogiedown; 05-10-2021 at 01:49 PM.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2017
    Posts
    6,310
    Rep Power
    127
    Nice write up Jim. I don't know if the Supremes would've been completely forgotten, but I fear without Mary making sure her group wasn't forgotten that the group might- might- have eventually gotten lost in the shuffle that was the force called Diana Ross. While she herself never could escape the Supremes [[I always get a good chuckle reading the multitude of articles that still headline something along the lines of "Supremes singer Diana Ross", despite the fact that she's carved out one of the most storied legacies in music as a soloist), I don't think she would've gone out of her way to make sure people remembered that she once shared the stage with Florence and Mary. Mary made sure people never forgot she had once been a Supreme [[Mary might have argued once a Supreme, always a Supreme) and she made sure people never forgot Florence either.

Tags for this Thread

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •  

[REMOVE ADS]

Ralph Terrana
MODERATOR

Welcome to Soulful Detroit! Kindly Consider Turning Off Your Ad BlockingX
Soulful Detroit is a free service that relies on revenue from ad display [regrettably] and donations. We notice that you are using an ad-blocking program that prevents us from earning revenue during your visit.
Ads are REMOVED for Members who donate to Soulful Detroit. [You must be logged in for ads to disappear]
DONATE HERE »
And have Ads removed.