The Supremes were an American female singing group and the premier act
Motown Records during the 1960s. Founded as The Primettes in
Detroit, Michigan, in 1959, the Supremes were the most commercially
successful of Motown's acts and are, to date, America's most
successful vocal group with 12 number one singles on the Billboard
Hot 100. Most of these hits were written and produced by Motown's
main songwriting and production team, Holland–Dozier–Holland. At
their peak in the mid-1960s, the Supremes rivaled the Beatles in
worldwide popularity, and it is said that their success made it
possible for future African American R&B and soul musicians to
find mainstream success.
Florence Ballard, Mary Wilson, Diana Ross, and Betty McGlown, the
original group, are all from the Brewster-Douglass public housing
project in Detroit. They formed the Primettes as the sister act to
the Primes (with Paul Williams and Eddie Kendricks, who went on to
form the Temptations). Barbara Martin replaced McGlown in 1960, and
the group signed with
Motown the following year as the Supremes.
Martin left the act in early 1962, and Ross, Ballard, and Wilson
carried on as a trio.
During the mid-1960s, the Supremes achieved mainstream success with
Ross as lead singer and
Holland-Dozier-Holland as its songwriting and
production team. In 1967,
Berry Gordy renamed the
Diana Ross & the Supremes, and replaced Ballard with Cindy
Birdsong. Ross left to pursue a solo career in 1970 and was replaced
by Jean Terrell, so the group's name reverted to The Supremes. During
the mid-1970s, the lineup changed with Lynda Laurence, Scherrie Payne
Susaye Greene joining the group until, after 18 years, The
Supremes disbanded in 1977.
1.4 Ross's departure
The Supremes in the 1970s
2.1 Works inspired by the Supremes
2.2 Awards and followers
2.4 Post-Supremes groups
11 Further reading
12 External links
Diana Ross, Mary Wilson,
Florence Ballard (1965)
Frederick Douglass Housing Project in Detroit
Detroit in 1958, Florence Ballard, a junior high school student
living in the Brewster-Douglass Housing Projects, met Paul Williams
Eddie Kendricks who were two members of a
Detroit singing group
known as the Primes. Ballard sang, as did Paul Williams' girlfriend
Betty McGlown so Milton Jenkins, the Primes's manager, decided to
create a sister group to be called the Primettes. Ballard recruited
her best friend Mary Wilson, who recruited classmate Diana Ross.
Mentored and funded by Jenkins, the Primettes began by performing hit
songs of artists such as
Ray Charles and the Drifters at sock hops,
social clubs and talent shows around the
Detroit area. Receiving
additional guidance from group friend and established songwriter Jesse
Greer, the quartet quickly earned a local fan following. The girls
crafted an age-appropriate style that was inspired by the collegiate
dress of popular doo-wop group Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers;
and, for the most part, Ballard, Ross and Wilson performed equal leads
on songs. Within a few months, guitarist Marvin Tarplin was added to
the Primettes' lineup—a move that helped distinguish the group from
Detroit's many other aspiring acts by allowing the girls to sing live
instead of lip-synching.
After winning a prestigious local talent contest, the Primettes'
sights were set on making a record. In hopes of getting the group
signed to the local upstart
Motown label, in 1960 Ross asked an old
neighbor, Miracles lead singer Smokey Robinson, to help the group land
an audition for
Motown executive Berry Gordy, who had already
proven himself a capable songwriter. Robinson liked "the girls"
(as they were then known around Motown) and agreed to help, but he
liked their guitarist even more; with the Primettes' permission he
hired Tarplin, who became the guitarist for the Miracles. Robinson
arranged for the Primettes to audition a cappella for Gordy—but
Gordy, feeling the girls too young and inexperienced to be recording
artists, encouraged them to return when they had graduated from high
school. Undaunted, later that year the Primettes recorded a
single for Lu Pine Records, a label created just for them, titled
"Tears of Sorrow", which was backed with "Pretty Baby". The single
failed to find an audience, however. Shortly thereafter, McGlown
became engaged and left the group. Local girl Barbara Martin was
McGlown's prompt replacement.
Determined to leave an impression on Gordy and join the stable of
Motown stars, the Primettes frequented his Hitsville, U.S.A.
recording studio every day after school. Eventually, they
convinced Gordy to allow them to contribute hand claps and background
vocals for the songs of other
Motown artists including
Marvin Gaye and
Mary Wells. In January 1961, Gordy finally relented and agreed to
sign the girls to his label – but under the condition that they
change the name of their group. The Primes had by this time
combined with Otis Williams & the Distants and would soon sign to
Motown as the Temptations. Gordy gave Ballard a list of names to
choose from that included suggestions such as "the Darleens", "the
Sweet Ps", "the Melodees", "the Royaltones" and "the Jewelettes".
Ballard chose "the Supremes", a name that Ross initially disliked as
she felt it too masculine. Nevertheless, on January 15 the group
Motown as the Supremes. In the spring of 1962, Martin
left the group to start a family. Thus, the newly named Supremes
continued as a trio.
Between 1961 and 1963, the Supremes released six singles, none of
which charted in the
Top 40 positions of the
Billboard Hot 100. Jokingly referred to as the "no-hit
Supremes" around Motown's
Hitsville U.S.A. offices, the group
attempted to compensate for their lack of hits by taking on any work
available at the studio, including providing hand claps and singing
Motown artists such as
Marvin Gaye and the Temptations.
During these years, all three members took turns singing lead: Wilson
favored soft ballads; Ballard favored soulful, hard-driving songs; and
Ross favored mainstream pop songs. Most of their early material was
written and produced by
Berry Gordy or Smokey Robinson. In
December 1963, the single "When the Lovelight Starts Shining Through
His Eyes" peaked at number 23 on the Billboard Hot 100.
"Lovelight" was the first of many Supremes songs written by the Motown
songwriting and production team known as
Holland–Dozier–Holland. In late 1963,
Berry Gordy chose Diane
Ross—who began going by "Diana" in 1965—as the official lead
singer of the group. Ballard and Wilson were periodically given
solos on Supremes albums, and Ballard continued to sing her solo
number, "People", in concert for the next two years.
In the spring of 1964, the Supremes recorded the single "Where Did Our
Love Go". The song was originally intended by
Holland-Dozier-Holland for the Marvelettes, who rejected it.
Although the Supremes disliked the song, the producers coerced them
into recording it. In August 1964, while the Supremes toured as
part of Dick Clark's Caravan of Stars, "Where Did Our Love Go" reached
number one on the US pop charts, much to the surprise and delight of
the group. It was also their first song to appear on the UK pop
charts, where it reached number three.
"Where Did Our Love Go" was followed by four consecutive US number-one
hits: "Baby Love" (which was also a number-one hit in the UK),
"Come See About Me", "Stop! In the Name of Love" and "Back in My Arms
Again". "Baby Love" was nominated for the 1965
Grammy Award for
Best R&B Song.
The Supremes deliberately embraced a more glamorous image than
previous black performers. Much of this was accomplished at the behest
Berry Gordy and Maxine Powell, who ran Motown's
in-house finishing school and Artist Development department.
Unlike many of her contemporaries, Ross sang in a thin, calm voice,
and her vocal styling was matched by having all three women embellish
their femininity instead of imitate the qualities of male groups.
Eschewing plain appearances and basic dance routines, the Supremes
appeared onstage in detailed make-up and high-fashion gowns and wigs,
and performed graceful choreography created by
Cholly Atkins. Powell told the group to "be prepared to perform before
kings and queens." Gordy wanted the Supremes, like all of his
performers, to be equally appealing to black and white audiences,
and he sought to erase the image of black performers as being
unrefined or lacking class.
Public magazines such as Time and The
Detroit News commented on the
Supremes' polished presentation. Time called the Supremes "the
pride of Detroit" and described them as "three thrushes who have a
touch of gospel and sweet lyrics like 'I'm standing at the crossroads
of love'." Arnold S. Hirsch of The
Detroit News said about the
Supremes: "they don't scream or wail incoherently. An adult can
understand nine out of every 10 words they sing. And, most astounding,
melody can be clearly detected in every song." In addition, unlike
most American vocal groups, the group members became easily
identifiable by their fans, thanks partially to the cover of their
album, More Hits by the Supremes, which each member was pictured
separately on the front, with her signature above it.
By 1965, the Supremes were international stars. They toured the world,
becoming almost as popular abroad as they were in the US.
Almost immediately after their initial number-one hits, they recorded
songs for motion picture soundtracks, appeared in the 1965 film Beach
Ball, and endorsed dozens of products, at one point having their own
brand of bread. By the end of 1966, their number-one hits included "I
Hear a Symphony", "You Can't Hurry Love" and "You Keep Me Hangin'
On". That year the group also released
The Supremes A' Go-Go,
which on October 22 became the first album by an all-female group to
reach number one on the US Billboard 200, knocking the Beatles'
Revolver out of the top spot. Because the Supremes were popular
with white audiences as well as with black ones, Gordy had the group
cater to its middle American audience with performances at renowned
supper clubs such as the Copacabana in New York. Broadway and pop
standards were incorporated into their repertoire alongside their own
hit songs. As a result, the Supremes became one of the first black
musical acts to achieve complete and sustained crossover success.
Black rock and roll musicians of the 1950s had seen many of their
original hit tunes covered by white musicians, with these covers
usually achieving more fame and sales success than the originals. The
Supremes' success, however, counteracted this trend. Featuring three
group members who were marketed for their individual personalities (a
move unprecedented at the time) and Diana Ross's pop-friendly voice,
the Supremes broke down racial barriers with rock and roll songs
underpinned by R&B stylings. The group became extremely popular
both domestically and abroad, becoming one of the first black musical
acts to appear regularly on television programs such as Hullabaloo,
The Hollywood Palace, The
Della Reese Show, and, most notably, The Ed
Sullivan Show, on which they made 17 appearances. The Supremes'
cross-cultural success effectively paved the way for the mainstream
success of contemporaneous label mates such as the Temptations, the
Four Tops and the Jackson 5.
Problems within the group and within
Motown Records' stable of
performers led to tension among the members of the Supremes. Many of
Motown performers felt that
Berry Gordy was lavishing too
much attention upon the group and upon Ross, in particular. In
early 1967, the name of the act was officially changed briefly to "the
Supremes with Diana Ross" before changing again to "
Diana Ross &
the Supremes" by mid-summer.
The Miracles had become "Smokey Robinson
& the Miracles" two years prior. The fall of 1967 saw Martha &
the Vandellas become "Martha Reeves & the Vandellas". Having
learned that Ross would receive top billing,
David Ruffin lobbied,
unsuccessfully, to have the Temptations renamed as "
David Ruffin &
the Temptations", although Gordy maintained that because they
would be providing two acts, a lead singer and a group,
demand more money for live bookings.
The Supremes' name change fueled already present rumors of a solo
career for Ross and contributed to the professional and personal
dismantling of the group. In fact, Gordy intended to replace Ross with
Barbara Randolph as early as the fall of 1966, but changed his mind
and instead kept Ross in the group for several more years. Gordy's
caution may have been sparked by an incident in early 1966 as the
group prepared to make their second appearance at the Copacabana.
Angered by erratic behavior from Florence Ballard, Gordy intended to
replace her with Marlene Barrow, a member of the
singing group the Andantes. However, when club management heard of
this change, they threatened to cancel the group's appearance if
Ballard was replaced, as they saw Ballard's banter with her group
mates as a major part of their act's success.
As Ross became the focal point of the Supremes, Ballard felt pushed
aside in the group. Depression ensued, and Ballard began to drink
excessively, gaining weight until she could no longer comfortably wear
many of her stage outfits. The friendship, and later the working
relationship, between Ross and Ballard became strained. During
this turbulent period, Ballard relied heavily upon the advice of group
mate Mary Wilson, with whom she had maintained a close friendship.
Wilson, while outwardly demure and neutral in hopes of keeping the
group stable, privately advised Ballard that Ross and Gordy were eager
to oust Ballard. Although the Supremes scored two number-one hits
during the first quarter of 1967, "Love Is Here and Now You're Gone"
and "The Happening", the group as a unit began to disintegrate.
Cindy Birdsong (right)
By 1967, Ballard would not show up for recording dates, or would
arrive at shows too inebriated to perform. For some early 1967 shows,
she was replaced by Marlene Barrow. Looking for a more permanent
replacement, Gordy once again thought of Barbara Randolph, possibly
believing that Randolph could be groomed as lead singer for the group
once it was decided to take Ross solo. However, Ross did not receive
Randolph well. In April 1967, Gordy then contacted Cindy Birdsong, a
member of Patti LaBelle & the Blue Belles who superficially
resembled Ballard, with plans to bring her in as Ballard's
replacement. He made his plans clear to Ballard and her group
mates at a mid-April meeting, and Birdsong was brought in to begin
rehearsals. Gordy did not fire Ballard outright at that time,
asking Ballard instead to quit on her own.
Birdsong first appeared with the Supremes in Ballard's place at a
benefit concert at the
Hollywood Bowl on April 29, 1967.
Following the performance, Gordy quickly learned that Birdsong was
still contractually committed to the Blue Belles when that group's
lawyers filed an injunction against him. In May, Ballard returned for
what she believed was a probationary period, although in reality it
was a stopgap measure until Gordy was able to buy out Birdsong's
contract. During May and June, knowing that she was one step away from
being dismissed, Ballard made an attempt to toe the line, slimming
down and showing up to commitments on time and sober. Despite this,
Birdsong was secretly traveling with the Supremes, studying their
On June 29, 1967 the group returned to the
Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas
billed as "the Supremes with Diana Ross", the first time in which Ross
was billed separately from the group. One month later, Gordy renamed
the group "
Diana Ross & the Supremes," putting Ross's name ahead
of the group.
The first two days of the Flamingo engagement went by smoothly. On
July 1, when reporting for makeup and wardrobe before their first show
of the evening, Ballard discovered an extra set of gowns and costumes
that had been brought along for Cindy Birdsong. Angered, Ballard
performed the first concert of the night inebriated, leading to an
embarrassing on-stage incident in which her stomach was revealed when
she purposely thrust it forward during a dance routine. Enraged, Gordy
ordered her back to
Detroit and permanently dismissed her from the
group. Birdsong officially assumed her place during the second July 1
Ballard's release from
Motown was made final on February 22, 1968,
when she received a one-time payment of US$139,804.94 in royalties and
earnings. She attempted a solo career with ABC Records, and was
forced to formally reject a solo contract offered by
Motown as part of
her settlement. Ballard's two 1968 singles failed to chart and her
solo album was shelved. In 1971, Ballard sued
$8.7 million, claiming that Gordy and
Diana Ross had conspired to
force her out of the group; the judge ruled in favor of Motown.
Ballard eventually sank into poverty and died abruptly on February 22,
1976 from coronary thrombosis at the age of 32. At the time of her
death, she had begun to make financial and personal strides and was
planning to reinvigorate her solo career.
Motown in early 1968 after a dispute with
the label over royalties and profit sharing. The quality of
Motown's output (and
Diana Ross & the Supremes' records in
particular) began to falter as a result. From "Reflections" in 1967 to
"The Weight" in 1969, only six out of the eleven released singles
reached the Top 20, and only one of those, 1968's "Love Child",
made it to number one. Due to the tension within the group and
stringent touring schedules, neither Mary Wilson nor Cindy Birdsong
appear on many of these singles; they were replaced on these
recordings by session singers such as the Andantes. The changes
within the group and their decreasing sales were signs of changes
within the music industry. The gospel-based soul of female performers
Aretha Franklin had eclipsed the Supremes' pop-based sound,
which had by now evolved to include more middle-of-the-road material.
In a cultural climate now influenced more than ever by countercultural
movements such as the Black Panther Party, the Supremes found
themselves attacked for not being "black enough", and lost ground in
the black music market.
Motown initiated a number of high-profile collaborations
for the Supremes with their old colleagues, the Temptations. Besides
the fact that both groups had come up together, the pairings made
financial sense: the Supremes had a mostly white fanbase, while the
Temptations a mostly black fanbase. By 1969, the label began plans for
Diana Ross solo career. A number of candidates—most notably
Syreeta Wright—were considered to replace Ross. After seeing
Jean Terrell perform with her brother Ernie in Florida,
Berry Gordy decided on Ross' replacement. Terrell was signed to Motown
and began recording the first post-Ross Supremes songs with Wilson and
Birdsong during the day, while Wilson and Birdsong toured with Ross at
night. At the same time, Ross began to make her first solo recordings.
In November 1969, Ross' solo career was publicly announced.
"Someday We'll Be Together" was recorded with the intent of releasing
it as the first solo single for Diana Ross. Desiring a final Supremes
number-one record, Gordy instead had the song released as a Diana Ross
& the Supremes single, despite the fact that neither Wilson nor
Birdsong sang on the record. "Someday We'll Be Together" hit number
one on the American pop charts, becoming not only the Supremes' 12th
and final number-one hit, but also the final number-one hit of the
1960s. This single also would mark the Supremes' final television
appearance together with Ross, performing on
The Ed Sullivan Show
The Ed Sullivan Show on
December 21, 1969.
The Supremes without Ross made their final
appearance altogether on Ed Sullivan on February 15, 1970.
The Supremes in the 1970s
Diana Ross & the Supremes gave their final performance on January
14, 1970 at the Frontier Hotel in Las Vegas. At the final
performance, the replacement for Diana Ross, Jean Terrell, was
introduced. According to Mary Wilson, after this performance, Berry
Gordy wanted to replace Terrell with Syreeta Wright. Wilson refused,
leading to Gordy stating that he was washing his hands of the group
thereafter. This claim is also made by Mark Ribowsky. After
the Frontier Hotel performance, Ross officially began her career as a
solo performer. Mary Wilson and
Cindy Birdsong continued working with
Jean Terrell on the first post-Ross Supremes album, Right On.
The Terrell-led Supremes—now rebranded as "the Supremes;" known
unofficially at first as "the New Supremes", and in later years
informally called "The '70s Supremes"—scored hits including "Up the
Ladder to the Roof" (US number 10, UK number 6), "Stoned Love" (US
number 7, UK number 3) and "Nathan Jones" (US number 16, UK number 5),
all of which were produced by Frank Wilson. These three singles were
also R&B Top Ten hits, with "Stoned Love" becoming their last No.1
R&B hit in December 1970. Songwriting/production team Nickolas
Ashford & Valerie Simpson produced another Top 20 hit for the
group, a Supremes/
Four Tops duet version of Ike & Tina Turner's
"River Deep – Mountain High".
In 1972, the Supremes had their last Top 20 hit single release, "Floy
Joy", written and produced by Smokey Robinson, followed by the final
Top 40 hit for the Jean Terrell-led version of the group,
"Automatically Sunshine" (US number 37, UK number 10). "Automatically
Sunshine" later became the group's final top 10 single in the UK. On
both "Floy Joy" and "Sunshine" Terrell shared lead with Mary Wilson.
Motown, by then moving from
Detroit to Los Angeles to break into
motion pictures, put only limited effort into promoting the Supremes'
new material, and their popularity and sales began to wane. Cindy
Birdsong left the group in April 1972, after recording the Floy Joy
album, to start a family; her replacement was Lynda Laurence, a former
member of Stevie Wonder's backup group, Third Generation (a
predecessor to Wonderlove).
Jimmy Webb was hired to produce the
group's next LP,
The Supremes Produced and Arranged by Jimmy Webb,
but the album and its only single "I Guess I'll Miss the Man" failed
to make an impact on the Billboard pop chart, with the single charting
at number 85.
In early 1973, Laurence prevailed upon her old mentor
Stevie Wonder to
write and produce a hit for the Supremes, but the resulting "Bad
Weather" peaked at number 87 on the US pop charts and number 37 in the
UK. Laurence can be heard briefly, shouting several times at the end
of the song (the only recording on which Laurence is heard). Laurence
left to start a family; her replacement: a returning Cindy Birdsong.
Dismayed by this poor-performing record and the lack of promotional
support from Motown,
Jean Terrell left the group and was replaced by
Scherrie Payne, the sister of
Invictus Records recording artist Freda
Between the 1973 departures of Laurence and Terrell and the first
Supremes single with Scherrie Payne, "He's My Man", a disco single on
which Payne and Wilson shared lead vocal,
Motown was slow in producing
contracts for Payne and the returning Birdsong. Before the release of
the album in 1975, the Supremes remained a popular live act, and
continued touring overseas, particularly in the UK and Japan. The
group's new recordings were not as successful as their earlier
releases, although "He's My Man" from the album
The Supremes was a
popular disco hit in 1975. In 1976, Birdsong, dissatisfied with the
management of the Supremes (handled at the time by Mary Wilson's
then-husband Pedro Ferrer), left again and was replaced by Susaye
Greene, another former member of Wonderlove.
This final version of the Supremes released two albums, both of which
reunited the Supremes with Holland-Dozier-Holland: High Energy, which
includes Birdsong on all of the tracks, and Mary, Scherrie &
Susaye. During that year, the Supremes released "I'm Gonna Let My
Heart Do the Walking", their final
Top 40 hit on the
Billboard Hot 100.
On June 12, 1977, the Supremes performed their farewell concert at the
Drury Lane Theater in London and disbanded.
Works inspired by the Supremes
Several fictional works have been published and produced that are
based in part on the career of the group. The 1976 film Sparkle
features the story of a Supremes-like singing trio called "Sister
& the Sisters" from Harlem, New York. The film's score was
composed by Curtis Mayfield, and the soundtrack album by Aretha
Franklin was a commercial success. A remake of Sparkle was in
development in the early 2000s with R&B singer
Aaliyah as the
lead, but the project was shelved when
Aaliyah died in 2001. The
Sparkle remake was eventually released in August 2012 and starred
Jordin Sparks and Whitney Houston, in her final film role.
On December 21, 1981, the Tony Award-winning musical
at the Imperial Theatre on Broadway and ran for 1,522 performances.
The musical, loosely based on the history of the Supremes, follows the
story of the Dreams, an all-female singing trio from Chicago who
become music superstars. Several of the characters in the play are
analogues of real-life Supremes/
Motown counterparts, with the story
focusing upon the
Florence Ballard doppelgänger Effie White. While
influenced by the Supremes' and Motown's music, the songs in the play
are a broader mix of R&B/soul and Broadway music. Mary Wilson
loved the musical, but
Diana Ross was reportedly angered by it and
refused to see it.
The album cover seen in the 2006 film Dreamgirls, left, strongly
resembles the 1969 album cover for
Diana Ross & the Supremes'
Cream of the Crop, right.
A film adaptation of Dreamgirls, starring Jamie Foxx, Beyoncé, Eddie
Murphy, and Jennifer Hudson, was released by
DreamWorks and Paramount
Pictures in December 2006. The film contains more overt references to
Motown and the Supremes than does the play that inspired it: for
example, in the film, many of the Dreams' album covers are identical
in design to Supremes album covers, and the Dreams themselves hail
Detroit – not Chicago, as do their Broadway counterparts.
Awards and followers
The Supremes were twice nominated for a Grammy Award—for Best Rhythm
& Blues Recording ("Baby Love", 1965) and Best Contemporary Rock
& Roll Group Vocal Performance ("Stop! In the Name of Love",
1966)—but never won an award in competition. Three of their
songs were added to the Grammy Hall of Fame: "Where Did Our Love Go"
and "You Keep Me Hangin' On" (both 1999) and "Stop! In the Name of
Hollywood Walk of Fame
Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7060 Hollywood Blvd.
"Stop! In the Name of Love" and "You Can't Hurry Love" are among the
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.
The Ross-Wilson-Ballard lineup was inducted into the Rock and Roll
Hall of Fame in 1988, received a star on the
Hollywood Walk of Fame
Hollywood Walk of Fame in
1994, and entered into the
Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 1998. In 2004,
Rolling Stone placed the group at number 97 on their list of the "100
Greatest Artists of All Time".
The Supremes are notable for the
influences they have had on black girl groups who have succeeded them
in popular music, such as The Three Degrees, The Emotions, The Pointer
Sisters, En Vogue, TLC,
Destiny's Child and Cleopatra.
The Beatles were there," said Madonna of her childhood, "but I was
more eager about The Supremes. I was really into girl groups."
Fan interest made the idea of a Supremes reunion tour a very
profitable one during the 1980s. In 1982, around the time that Motown
reunited all of the Temptations, it was rumored that
reunite the Supremes. The 1974 line-up of the Supremes (Wilson,
Birdsong and Payne) was considered for this reunion, which was to
include new recordings and a tour. Under advisement from Berry Gordy,
Wilson declined to reunite, and the idea was scrapped. Ross briefly
reunited with Wilson and Birdsong to perform "Someday We'll Be
Together" on the
Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever television
special, taped on March 25, 1983, and broadcast on
NBC on May 16,
In 2000, plans were made for Ross to join Wilson and Birdsong for a
Diana Ross & the Supremes: Return to Love" reunion tour.
However, Wilson passed on the idea, because while the promoters
offered Ross $15 million to perform, Wilson was offered
$4 million and Birdsong less than $1 million. Ross
herself offered to double the amounts both Wilson and Birdsong had
originally been offered, but while Birdsong accepted, Wilson remained
adamant, and as a result the deal fell through with both former
Supremes. Eventually, the "Return to Love" tour went on as scheduled,
but with Payne and Laurence joining Ross, although none of the three
had ever been in the group at the same time and neither Payne nor
Laurence had sung on any of the original hit recordings that they were
now singing live.
Susaye Greene was also considered for this tour, but
refused to audition for it. The music critics cried foul and many fans
were disappointed by both this and the shows' high ticket prices.
Though the tour did well in larger markets including near capacity at
the opening night in Philadelphia and a sellout at Madison Square
Garden in New York, it under performed in smaller/medium markets. The
tour was canceled after playing only half of the dates on
In 1986, Jean Terrell,
Scherrie Payne and
Lynda Laurence began to
perform as "The FLOS": Former Ladies of the Supremes. When Terrell
quit in 1992, Sundray Tucker, Laurence’s sister, stepped in for a
short time, but was replaced by
Freddi Poole in 1996. More recently in
September 2009, Poole was replaced by Joyce Vincent, formerly of Tony
Orlando and Dawn. The group, now called "
Scherrie Payne & Lynda
Laurence, Formerly of the Supremes," and Joyce Vincent, are working on
a new recording.
Kaaren Ragland performed with Mary Wilson from 1978 though the
mid-1980s. In 1989 she formed her own group called "the Sounds of the
Supremes". She has claimed numerous times that she was a member of the
Supremes because of her performances with Wilson, but she was never
Motown and performed with Wilson only after the Supremes
disbanded in 1977 and is not considered as a member of the
Book: The Supremes
The Supremes portal
List of The Supremes members and
The Supremes timeline
The Supremes (aka the Primettes and
Diana Ross & the Supremes)
Florence Ballard (1959–67)
Mary Wilson (1959–77)
Diana Ross (1959–70)
Betty McGlown (1959–60)
Barbara Martin (1960–62)
Cindy Birdsong (1967–72, 1973–76)
Jean Terrell (1970–73)
Lynda Laurence (1972–73)
Scherrie Payne (1973–77)
Susaye Greene (1976–77)
The Primettes/The Supremes
Diana Ross & the Supremes
The Supremes discography
T.A.M.I. Show (1965) (concert film)
Beach Ball (1965)
G.I.T. on Broadway
G.I.T. on Broadway (1969)
Reflections: The Definitive Performances (1964–1969) (2006)
Greatest Hits: Live in Amsterdam (2006)
^ "YouTube". Youtube.com. Retrieved October 23, 2014.
^ Bronson, Fred: The Billboard
Book of Number 1 Hits, page 265.
Billboard Books, 2003.
^ a b c d e Unterberger, Richie. "The Supremes". Allmusic. Retrieved
on July 4, 2008.
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^ Wilson et al., 49.
^ Wilson et al., 38.
^ Wilson et al., 37.
^ Wilson et al., 51.
^ a b c Wilson et al., 53–56.
^ Wilson et al., 75.
^ a b c Gilliland, John (1969). "Show 26 – The Soul Reformation:
Phase two, the
Motown story. [Part 5]" (audio). Pop Chronicles.
University of North Texas Libraries.
^ Wilson et al., 69.
^ a b Wilson et al., 69–71.
^ Wilson et al., 62.
^ Wilson et al., 57.
^ Wilson et al., 58.
^ Wilson et al., 84–85.
^ Wilson et al., 81.
^ Benjaminson, 27.
^ a b "The Supremes". The
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, 1988.
Retrieved on July 21, 2008.
^ Slonimsky, Nicolas & Kuhn, Laura Diane. Baker's Biographical
Dictionary of Musicians. Schirmer Books, 2001. 3539.
^ Wilson et al., 136.
^ Bronson, Fred. Billboard's Hottest Hot 100 Hits:
Top Songs and Song Makers, 1955 to 2000. Billboard Books, 2000. 25.
^ Adrahtas, 361.
^ Wilson et al., 141.
^ Wilson, Mary (1986). Dreamgirl: My Life as a Supreme. Cooper Square
Press. pp. 169–170. ISBN 0-8154-1000-X.
^ a b c d Wilson et al., 141–143.
^ Wilson et al., 173.
^ Wilson et al., 147.
^ "The Supremes:Singles". AllMusic. Retrieved on July 25, 2008.
^ "The Grammy Hall Of Fame Award Archived July 7, 2015, at the Wayback
Machine.". grammy.com. Retrieved on July 24, 2008.
^ a b c Yusuf, Nilgin. "
The Supremes on show". Telegraph (UK), April
26, 2008. Retrieved on August 4, 2008.
^ Kooijman, Jaap. "From elegance to extravaganza the Supremes on The
Ed Sullivan Show as a presentation of beauty". Velvet Light Trap [on
accessmylibrary.com], March 22, 2002. Retrieved on July 4, 2007.
^ a b c Ebony 1965, p. 86.
^ Rivera, Ursula. The Supremes. Rosen Central, 2002. 19.
^ Smith, Suzanne E. Dancing in the Street:
Motown and the Cultural
Politics of Detroit. Harvard University Press, 2001. 76.
AllMusic Billboard Albums. Retrieved on July 24, 2008.
^ Bronson, Fred (June 8, 2017). "'
The Supremes A' Go-Go' Reissue: Mary
Wilson, Lamont Dozier Look Back on the Landmark Girl Group Album".
Billboard. Retrieved October 20, 2017.
^ Adrahtas, pp. 41–43.
^ Jaynes, Gerald David. Encyclopedia of African American Society. Sage
Publications, 2005. 673. ISBN 0-7619-2764-6
^ Benjaminson, 143.
^ Ribowsky, Mark (2009). The Supremes: A Saga of
Success, and Betrayal. Da Capo Press ISBN 978-0-306-81586-7, pg.
^ Ribowsky, Mark (2009). The Supremes: A Saga of
Success, and Betrayal. Da Capo Press ISBN 978-0-306-81586-7, pg.
^ a b Leigh, Wendy. "Queen of the Supremes before Diana Ross". Daily
Mail, May 22, 2008. Retrieved on August 4, 2008.
^ Benjaminson, 92.
^ a b c d e Ribowsky, Mark (2009). The Supremes: A Saga of Motown
Dreams, Success, and Betrayal. Da Capo Press
ISBN 978-0-306-81586-7, pg. 283–294
^ Wilson and Romanowski (1986). Dreamgirl, pg. 263)
^ Adrahtas, 296.
^ Knight, Jack. "Ex-Supreme rejected in
Press, October 29, 1971.
^ Benjaminson, 109.
^ Benjaminson, 113.
^ Benjaminson, 190.
^ Benjaminson, 168.
^ Boehm, Mike. "How sweet it is:
Motown hit-makers eye Broadway". Los
Angeles Times, April 15, 2007. Retrieved on July 17, 2008.
^ "Show 50 – The Soul Reformation: Phase three, soul music at the
summit. [Part 6] : UNT Digital Library". UNT Digital Library.
Retrieved October 23, 2014.
^ Benjaminson, 75–79.
^ Bloch, Avital H. Impossible to Hold: Women And Culture In The 1960s.
New York: New York University Press, February 2005. 156.
^ George, Nelson. Where Did Our Love Go?: the rise & fall of the
Motown sound By Nelson George. Omnibus Press, 2003. 190.
^ A live recording of the performance was released later that year in
a double-LP box set titled Farewell.
^ Wilson, Mary & Romanowski, Patricia.
Dreamgirl & Supreme
Faith: My Life as a Supreme. New York: Cooper Square Publishers, 1986.
^ Ribowsky, Mark. "The Supremes: A Saga of
Motown Dreams, Success, and
Betrayal". New York: Da Capo Press, 2009. ISBN 0-306-81586-9
^ G. Gaar, Gillian. She's a rebel: the history of women in rock &
roll. Seal Press. 168. ISBN 1-58005-078-6
^ Vining, Mark. "
The Supremes Archived December 30, 2008, at the
Wayback Machine.". Rolling Stone, January 4, 1973. Retrieved on July
^ "The It List: Aaliyah". Entertainment Weekly, June 21, 2001.
Retrieved on November 11, 2006.
^ Pols, Mary (August 16, 2012). "Sparkle: Whitney Houston's Last
Picture Show and Jordin Sparks' First". Time.
^ O'Niel, Tom. "Diana's 'Dreamgirls' decision". Los Angeles Times.
Retrieved on November 11, 2006.
^ Skurow, Andrew. The Supremes. CD boxed set liner notes appendix,
2007. New York:
Motown Record Co./Universal Music.
^ "Grammy Hall of Fame Awards Archived July 7, 2015, at the Wayback
Machine.". Grammy.com, 2007. Retrieved April 27, 2007.
^ "The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and
Roll (by artist)". Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, 2007. Retrieved on
April 27, 2007. Archived May 14, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
^ "The Immortals: The First Fifty". Rolling Stone, Issue 946, March
24, 2004. Retrieved on July 4, 2004.
^ Chin et al., 48.
^ Q, December 1994
^ Pareles, Jon. "Stop! In the Name of Nostalgia". New York Times,
April 5, 2000. Retrieved on July 10, 2008.
^ "Supremes return for tour". BBC News, April 5, 2000. Retrieved on
July 4, 2008.
^ Posner, 331.
^ "Supremes Drama Continues as
Dreamgirls Opening Archived October 6,
2015, at the Wayback Machine." The New Tri-State Defender, October 18,
Adrahtas, Thomas. A Lifetime to Get Here: Diana Ross: the American
Dreamgirl. AuthorHouse, 2006. ISBN 1-4259-7140-7
Benjaminson, Peter. The Lost Supreme: The Life of
Ballard. Chicago: Chicago Review Press, November 2007. 75–79.
Chin, Brian & Nathan, David.
The Supremes [CD
boxed set liner notes]. New York:
Motown Record Co./Universal Music,
Clinton, Paul. "Diana Ross' tour excludes old partner, friend".
CNN.com, April 20, 2000.
"Supremes Wow Europe, Too". Ebony. June 1965. p. 86.
Gans, Andrew. "Foxx and Usher to Join Beyonce for
Playbill, May 12, 2005.
Mary Wilson: An Interview Supreme by Pete Lewis, 'Blues & Soul'
Nathan, David. The Soulful Divas: Personal Portraits of over a Dozen
Divine Divas. New York: Billboard Books/Watson-Guptill Publications,
2002. ISBN 0-8230-8430-2.
Posner, Gerald. Motown: Music, Money, Sex, and Power. New York: Random
House, 2002. ISBN 0-375-50062-6.
Wilson, Mary & Romanowski, Patricia.
Dreamgirl & Supreme
Faith: My Life as a Supreme. New York: Cooper Square Publishers, 1986.
^ Clemente, John (2000). Girl Groups—Fabulous Females That Rocked
The World. Iola, Wisc. Krause Publications. pp. 276.
ISBN 0-87341-816-6. ^ Clemente, John (2013). Girl
Groups—Fabulous Females Who Rocked The World. Bloomington, IN
Authorhouse Publications. pp. 623. ISBN 978-1-4772-7633-4
(sc); ISBN 978-1-4772-8128-4 (e).
George, Nelson. Where Did Our Love Go: The Rise and Fall of the
Motown. London: Omnibus Press, 1985. ISBN 0-7119-9511-7.
Ross, Diana. Secrets of a Sparrow: Memoirs. New York: Random House,
1993. ISBN 0-517-16622-4.
Taraborrelli, J. Randy. Diana Ross: An Unauthorized Biography. London:
Sidgwick & Jackson, 2007. ISBN 978-0-283-07017-4.
Ribowsky, Mark. "The Supremes: A Saga of
Motown Dreams, Success, and
Betrayal". New York: Da Capo Press, 2009. ISBN 0-306-81586-9.
Wilson, Mary. Dreamgirl, My Life as a Supreme. New York: St. Martin's
Press, 1986. ISBN 0-312-21959-8
The Primettes at AllMusic
The Supremes at AllMusic
Diana Ross & the Supremes at AllMusic
The Supremes on IMDb
The Supremes interviewed on the
Pop Chronicles (1969)
The Supremes on The Ed Sullivan Show
Meet The Supremes
Meet The Supremes (1962)
Where Did Our Love Go
Where Did Our Love Go (1964)
More Hits by The Supremes
More Hits by The Supremes (1965)
I Hear a Symphony
I Hear a Symphony (1966)
The Supremes A' Go-Go
The Supremes A' Go-Go (1966)
The Supremes Sing
Love Child (1968)
Let the Sunshine In (1969)
Cream of the Crop
Cream of the Crop (1969)
Right On (1970)
New Ways but Love Stays
New Ways but Love Stays (1970)
Floy Joy (1972)
The Supremes Produced and Arranged by
Jimmy Webb (1972)
The Supremes (1975)
High Energy (1976)
Mary, Scherrie & Susaye (1976)
Diana Ross & the Supremes Join
The Temptations (1968)
The Magnificent 7 (1970)
The Return of the Magnificent Seven
The Return of the Magnificent Seven (1971)
The Supremes at the Copa
The Supremes at the Copa (1965)
Live at London's Talk of the Town
Live at London's Talk of the Town (1968)
On Broadway (1969)
The Supremes Live! In Japan (1973)
A Bit of Liverpool
A Bit of Liverpool (1964)
The Supremes Sing Country, Western and Pop
The Supremes Sing Country, Western and Pop (1965)
We Remember Sam Cooke
We Remember Sam Cooke (1965)
Merry Christmas (1965)
The Supremes Sing Rodgers & Hart (1967)
Diana Ross & the Supremes Sing and Perform "Funny Girl" (1968)
"Tears of Sorrow" (as The Primettes)
"I Want a Guy"
"Your Heart Belongs to Me"
"Let Me Go the Right Way"
"My Heart Can't Take It No More"
"A Breathtaking Guy"
"When the Lovelight Starts Shining Through His Eyes"
"Run, Run, Run"
"Where Did Our Love Go"
"Come See About Me"
"Stop! In the Name of Love"
"Back in My Arms Again"
"The Only Time I'm Happy"
"Nothing but Heartaches"
"Things Are Changing"
"I Hear a Symphony"
"Children's Christmas Song"
"My World Is Empty Without You"
"Love Is Like an Itching in My Heart"
"You Can't Hurry Love"
"You Keep Me Hangin' On"
"Love Is Here and Now You're Gone"
"In and Out of Love"
"Forever Came Today"
"Some Things You Never Get Used To"
"I'm Gonna Make You Love Me"
"I'm Livin' in Shame"
"I'll Try Something New"
"No Matter What Sign You Are"
"I Second That Emotion"
"Someday We'll Be Together"
"Why (Must We Fall in Love)"
"Up the Ladder to the Roof"
"Everybody's Got the Right to Love"
"River Deep – Mountain High"
"You Gotta Have Love in Your Heart"
"Without the One You Love"
"Your Wonderful, Sweet Sweet Love"
"I Guess I'll Miss the Man"
"Reach Out and Touch (Somebody's Hand)"
"Tossin' and Turnin'"
"He's My Man"
"Where Do I Go from Here"
"Early Morning Love"
"I'm Gonna Let My Heart Do the Walking"
"You're My Driving Wheel"
"Let Yourself Go"
"Love, I Never Knew You Could Feel So Good"
Greatest Hits: Live in Amsterdam
Reflections: The Definitive Performances (1964–1969)
Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever
Sparkle (1976 film)
Sparkle (2012 film)
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Class of 1988
The Beach Boys
The Beach Boys (Al Jardine, Mike Love, Brian Wilson, Carl Wilson,
The Beatles (George Harrison, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo
The Drifters (Ben E. King, Rudy Lewis, Clyde McPhatter, Johnny Moore,
Bill Pinkney, Charlie Thomas, and Gerhart Thrasher)
The Supremes (Florence Ballard, Diana Ross, Mary Wilson)
(Ahmet Ertegun Award)