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Thread: What if?

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    What if?

    What if Berry Gordy signed Jean Terrell as a solo artist and had gotten someone else to be lead for The Supremes. Any thoughts on her career
    at Motown. What would they have done with her? Would Jean have been
    happier not following in the footsteps of Ross and be more amenable? I suppose there's the argument she too closely resembled his 'star' and he wouldn't have signed her solo. But, just....what if?

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    All I can say is Syreeta Wright.

  3. #3
    Jean would have been a fool to sign up as a solo female artist as Motown was unable to successfully promote anyone apart from Ross. So much talent went to waste that it was a sin! If Mary had stayed things may have been different but I doubt it. Blinky/Kim/Brenda/Barbara R/Chris/Carolyn/Tammi and others all tried but failed. Jean would just have been another name to add to the list.

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    Contractually, wasn't she signed to Motown as a solo artist, and then loaned or placed into the Supremes?

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    I was always under the impression that Jean signed to Motown as a solo from the beginning, but in an interview she said this wasn't true. I think Jean would've been happier as a solo artist. She would have had more room to determine her artistic directions. Unfortunately, as previously stated, Motown would have most likely ended up frustrating her, as it did while she was a Supreme. After Mary Wells, the only female solo stars the label had were Diana Ross and Tammi Terrell, and Tammi's star status was as one half of a duo with Marvin Gaye. Gladys Knight was the only other female lead vocalist, aside from Diana, at the company when Jean came on who was a current household name.

    I think Gladys was able to carve out a successful career at Motown in Diana's orbit because the two were so very different, sang in two very different lanes. Jean, while she could certainly go in Gladys' direction if she so chose, was vocally and artistically more in Diana's lane. There was nothing Motown was going to do with her outside of the Supremes situation, and we know how even that turned out. I love that Jean was a Supreme, and as huge of a fan of hers as I am, I'm not sure that I would re-write that part of her history [[aside from making it more successful than it was). However, post Supremes, I wish Jean had hooked up with the right company, the right people, that would have put her in position to succeed. I know it might seem like I'm beating a dead horse because I'm always pointing this out, but I'm going to do it anyway: the music business is mostly about luck. Yes, Jean may have been temperamental. There may have been aspects of the business she didn't care for or was uncomfortable with. But had she lucked up with the right spot where all of these issues could've been managed, there's no doubt in my mind that she would've had a long career in music. It sucks that a voice I love so much is so little recorded in comparison to some others. She deserved better.

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    From what I understand and have read was that Berry initially thought of Syreeta Wright but saw Jean and thought she was the better choice. At the DRATS Farewell something must have happened between them and he wanted Syreeta back as lead singer. Gordy really never promoted any other female singer besides Ross, that includes the Supremes and Jean. Gladys Knight really had to leave Motown before she got her true success. I can't envision Motown doing that much to promote Jean on her own as a solo artist. Apparently, after the Supremes hit big and replacements were put in, they were signed as solo artists but sublet to the Supremes. I personally don't know if Motown soured Jean on the music business or if she really was quite temperamental and difficult. She didn't tour much when she was signed to A&M in 1978. We may all like her voice but as time went on it did become a bit shrill[[Think Jimmy Webb LP) and her personae didn't really translate to the public. I don't think Jean's story would have been any different had she just been a soloist at Motown, in fact she probably would have been far less known. In 1970, Motown was focused on making Diana Ross their first superstar of the 70's and much further down maintaining the Supremes' popularity, Jean would have been much , much further down the line as a female solo singer in 1970. Gordy really did have a one track mind, especially regarding female artists.

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    Quote Originally Posted by RanRan79 View Post
    ...I know it might seem like I'm beating a dead horse... but I'm going to do it anyway: the music business is mostly about luck. Yes, Jean may have been temperamental. There may have been aspects of the business she didn't care for or was uncomfortable with. But had she lucked up with the right spot where all of these issues could've been managed, there's no doubt in my mind that she would've had a long career in music. It sucks that a voice I love so much is so little recorded in comparison to some others. She deserved better.
    You kind of pointed out the problem in your post. It is mostly about luck. But we create our own luck be it either good luck or bad luck. People with ambition and the want to succeed usually create their own opportunities and then work to make those opportunities succeed. Then people say "how lucky he/she was".

    A&M had a great party for her in NYC to introduce her LP's promotion. Everyone in the industry who could help her was there. DJ's, Program Directors, retailers, distributors, promoters etc. I honestly do not recall if she performed, but I do remember her taking pictures with us, and talking to us one on one, and to me she came across as shy and bashful I heard other people there saying that she wasn't very social. But as you pointed out, I think she was just uncomfortable in these types of situations.

    A&M was a great label for its artists. There was a terrific documentary last year on EPIX where A&M artists stated just how great they were for the artists.

    https://www.amazon.com/Mr-Story-Reco.../dp/B09MX8Q448

    A&M set up promotion for Jean's album, but I don't think she took much advantage of those opportunities. So in that sense, I think that the luck she created was bad luck.

    On record and on stage, Jean was great. But in interviews, she was kind of laid back and bashful. I loved Jean as a Supreme with the group. I would have loved her as a soloist. But perhaps life out of the spotlight made her happier.

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    I always thought perhaps Jean had neither the personality nor temperament for the trials and tribulations of showbusiness. I agree with Milven in that maybe life out of the spotlight made her happier. What a great talent, though. Thankfully we have her Supreme years on record to enjoy.

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    What if... is the title of this thread.
    What if Motown released the vaulted Jean Terrell tracks. It would be like going up the ladder to the roof.. being so much closer to heaven.

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    Quote Originally Posted by luckyluckyme View Post
    What if... is the title of this thread.
    What if Motown released the vaulted Jean Terrell tracks. It would be like going up the ladder to the roof.. being so much closer to heaven.
    You got my vote lucky! Heaven, indeed!

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    Quote Originally Posted by milven View Post
    You kind of pointed out the problem in your post. It is mostly about luck. But we create our own luck be it either good luck or bad luck. People with ambition and the want to succeed usually create their own opportunities and then work to make those opportunities succeed. Then people say "how lucky he/she was".

    A&M had a great party for her in NYC to introduce her LP's promotion. Everyone in the industry who could help her was there. DJ's, Program Directors, retailers, distributors, promoters etc. I honestly do not recall if she performed, but I do remember her taking pictures with us, and talking to us one on one, and to me she came across as shy and bashful I heard other people there saying that she wasn't very social. But as you pointed out, I think she was just uncomfortable in these types of situations.

    A&M was a great label for its artists. There was a terrific documentary last year on EPIX where A&M artists stated just how great they were for the artists.

    https://www.amazon.com/Mr-Story-Reco.../dp/B09MX8Q448

    A&M set up promotion for Jean's album, but I don't think she took much advantage of those opportunities. So in that sense, I think that the luck she created was bad luck.

    On record and on stage, Jean was great. But in interviews, she was kind of laid back and bashful. I loved Jean as a Supreme with the group. I would have loved her as a soloist. But perhaps life out of the spotlight made her happier.
    Great post! I have to disagree, though, about luck. I don't believe people make their own luck. I think all the right things have to come together to create a space where a person can succeed in the arts, just like I think a bunch of the wrong things can come together to be the downfall. The music business is rife with stories of singers, musicians and other talented folks who did all the "right" things but couldn't catch a break. Being talented, determined, focused, etc will only get you so far because, unfortunately, those aren't the only details that matter in the business.

    Take Aretha, for example. Aretha was talented, determined, focused, artistic minded, but the ingredients weren't present to elevate her beyond being a critically acclaimed marginally successful act. So after Columbia, we know all the right things came together to take Aretha into the stars at Atlantic. But what if she'd gone to ABC instead? What if she'd gone to Motown? Stax seems like it would've made sense, but would anyone there have put up with Ted White and his shenanigans? Or even Aretha's shenanigans?

    Even Diana Ross. Let's say she walked into Columbia or Atlantic and gotten signed. She was talented, focused, determined, but would either label have rocked with her for year after year without a single hit to show for it? What even would have happened to the Supremes had HDH not been paired with them? How much longer would Gordy have kept the group?

    Jean had a lucky career, obviously since we're even talking about her. For a time her Supremes lineup was still the biggest female group in the world. So it's not like good things didn't come her way. But as good as A&M may have been [[and while I don't downplay any good things former A&M artists have to say about their experience, there isn't a record label invented that didn't suck for some artists) it apparently was unlucky for Jean. If the rumor is true that the label wanted her going in one direction and she wanted to go in another, that's not the ideal set up. The ideal set up for any singer is one in which the choices made by all involved are comfortable. Jean was unlucky in that she had signed with a label that was interested in doing something with her, but was disinterested in what she wanted to do with herself.

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    without the brand "the Supremes" to support Jean at Motown, she would have become another Carolyn Crawford or Blinky. a handful of recordings, most of which would never have been released.

    my understanding of thing is that is wasn't that Berry suddenly had an epiphany during the final farewell show and wanted jean out. problems had been brewing for a while. Mary sort of acknowledges this in her books but makes it sound as if this was something totally out of the blue at 4:45 AM on the morning of January 15. cindy does also address the issue with a few quotes here and there in a few of the books. i don't know that she makes as much of a deal of Farewell show timing. My guess [[and it's just that) is that after signing Jean in June and a 5 or 6 months of working together, Berry started to see that jean was not a "Type A" personality with the star magnetism, that she might not have the personality to follow up such an explosive one in DR. plus he probably could recognize that she was being challenging to work with and not following the company dictates.

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    Recently I came across Syreeta's demo version of "Love Child". Granted it's a rough cut, but there's nothing about it that screams spectacular to me. The success in continuing the Supremes was trying finding someone completely opposite of Diana. Motown did that with Jean.

    It's funny though; one of the reasons Mary didn't want Syreeta in the group was that she thought Syreeta would use the group as a launching pad for her solo career, and would leave within a few years. The same thing Jean did; not for a solo career, but left the group just the same.

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    Quote Originally Posted by marybrewster View Post
    Recently I came across Syreeta's demo version of "Love Child". Granted it's a rough cut, but there's nothing about it that screams spectacular to me. The success in continuing the Supremes was trying finding someone completely opposite of Diana. Motown did that with Jean.

    It's funny though; one of the reasons Mary didn't want Syreeta in the group was that she thought Syreeta would use the group as a launching pad for her solo career, and would leave within a few years. The same thing Jean did; not for a solo career, but left the group just the same.
    well and Mary's supposed criticism of Syreeta is exactly what Mary ended up doing herself after L and J left. she and pedro were attempting to launch mary from the supremes structure and as such decisions were focused more around that objective than what might have been best for the group

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