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Diana Ernestine Earle Ross (born March 26, 1944) is an American singer, actress, and record producer. Born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, Ross rose to fame as the lead singer of the vocal group the Supremes, which, during the 1960s, became Motown’s most successful act, and are the best charting girl group in US history, as well as one of the world’s best-selling girl groups of all time. The group released a record-setting twelve number-one hit singles on the US Billboard Hot 100, including “Where Did Our Love Go”, “Baby Love”, “Come See About Me”, “Stop! In the Name of Love”, “You Can’t Hurry Love”, “You Keep Me Hangin’ On”, “Love Child”, and “Someday We’ll Be Together”.
Following her departure from the Supremes in 1970, Ross released her eponymous debut solo album that same year, which contained the Top 20 Pop hit “Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand)” and the number-one Pop hit “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”. She later released the album Touch Me in the Morning in 1973; its title track reached number 1, as her second solo No. 1 hit. That same year, her album Lady Sings the Blues, which was the original soundtrack of her film based on the life of jazz singer Billie Holiday, went to no. 1 on the Billboard 200 Albums Chart, selling more than 300,000 copies within its first 8 days of release. do you know where you’re going to KEY F
By 1976, the Mahogany soundtrack included her third number-one hit, “Theme from Mahogany (Do You Know Where You’re Going To)”. Her eponymous 1976 album included her fourth number-one hit, “Love Hangover”. In 1979, Ross released the album The Boss. do you know where youre going to
Her 1980 semi-eponymous album Diana reached number 2 on the US Billboard albums chart, and spawned the number-one hit “Upside Down”, and the Top 5 international hit “I’m Coming Out”. Ross’ final single with Motown during her initial run with the company achieved her sixth and final US number-one Pop hit, the duet “Endless Love”, composed for the Brooke Shields film of the same name, by and performed with Commodores front man, Lionel Richie. Ross and Richie performed the song on the telecast for the 54th Academy Awards, where the song was nominated in the category of “Best Song”. The success of the single launched Richie’s successful solo career. do you know where youre going to
Ross has also ventured into acting, with a Golden Globe Award and Academy Award-nominated performance for her performance in the film Lady Sings the Blues (1972). She also starred in two other feature films, Mahogany (1975) and The Wiz (1978), later acting in the television films Out of Darkness (1994), for which she also was nominated for a Golden Globe Award, and Double Platinum (1999).
Ross was named the “Female Entertainer of the Century” by Billboard magazine. In 1993, the Guinness Book of World Records declared Ross the most successful female music artist in history, due to her success in the United States and United Kingdom for having more hits than any female artist in the charts, with a career total of 70 hit singles with her work with the Supremes and as a solo artist.
In 1988, Ross was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as member of the Supremes, alongside Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard. She was the recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors in 2007, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016. do you know where you’re going to KEY F
She is a 12-time Grammy nominee, never earning a competitive honor, but later became the recipient of the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012. In December 2016, Billboard magazine named her the 50th most successful dance artist of all time. In Billboard magazine’s Greatest of All Time Hot 100 Artists chart, she ranked 16th as the lead singer of the Supremes and 26th as a solo artist.
The building that was part of the Brewster-Douglass Housing Projects in Detroit, where Diana spent her teenage years
Diana Ross was born at the Hutzel Women’s Hospital in Detroit on March 26, 1944. She was the second eldest child for Ernestine (née Moten; January 27, 1916 – October 9, 1984) and Fred Ross, Sr. (July 4, 1920 – November 21, 2007). Ross’s older sister is American physician Barbara Ross-Lee.
According to Ross, her mother actually named her “Diane”, but, a clerical error resulted in her name being recorded as “Diana” on her birth certificate. She was listed as “Diane” during the first Supremes records, and she introduced herself as “Diane” until early in the group’s heyday. Her friends and family still call her “Diane”. do you know where youre going to
Ross’s grandfather John E. Ross, a native of Gloucester County, Virginia, was born to Washington Ross and Virginia Baytop. Virginia Baytop’s mother Francis “Frankey” Baytop was a former slave who had become a midwife after the Civil War.
Ross and her family originally lived on Belmont Road in the North End section of Detroit, near Highland Park, Michigan, where her neighbor was Smokey Robinson. When Ross was seven, her mother contracted tuberculosis, causing her to become seriously ill. Ross’s father moved with his children to live with relatives in Bessemer, Alabama. After her mother recovered, her family moved back to Detroit.
On her 14th birthday in 1958, her family relocated to the working-class Brewster-Douglass Housing Projects settling at St. Antoine Street. Attending Cass Technical High School, a four-year college and preparatory magnet school, in downtown Detroit, Ross began taking classes including clothing design, millinery, pattern making, and tailoring, as she had aspired to become a fashion designer. She also took modeling and cosmetology classes at the school and participated in three or four other extracurricular activities while there. do you know where you’re going to KEY D
Ross also worked at Hudson’s Department Store where it has been claimed in biographies, she was the first black employee “allowed outside the kitchen”. For extra income, she provided hairdressing services for her neighbors. Ross graduated from Cass Tech in January 1962.
Diana Ross (far right) performing with the Supremes as lead singer
At fifteen, Ross joined the Primettes, a sister group of a male vocal group called the Primes, after being brought to the attention of music manager Milton Jenkins by Primes member Paul Williams. Along with Ross, the other members included Florence Ballard the first group member hired by Jenkins, Mary Wilson, and Betty McGlown. Following a talent competition win in Windsor, Ontario, in 1960, the Primettes were invited to audition for Motown records. do you know where you’re going to
Ballard, allegedly, declined the offer, due to unsavory rumors of the unscrupulous business practices of Motown’s founder, Berry Gordy. Later, following local success via live performances at sock hops, etc., Ross approached former neighbor (and rumored childhood former boyfriend), William “Smokey” Robinson, who insisted that the group audition for him first. Robinson agreed to bring the Primettes to Motown, in exchange for letting him and the Miracles hire the Primettes’ guitarist, Marv Tarplin, for an upcoming tour. Tarplin played in Robinson’s band(s) for the next 30-plus years.
In her autobiography, “Secrets of a Sparrow”, Ross wrote that she felt that deal was “a fair trade”. The Primettes later auditioned for Motown Records, before various Motown executives. In Berry Gordy’s autobiography, To Be Loved, Gordy recalled he was heading to a business meeting when he heard Ross singing “There Goes My Baby” and Ross’ voice “stopped me in my tracks”. He approached the group and asked them to perform it again but, learning of their ages, Gordy advised them to come back after graduating from high school. do you know where you’re going to
Undeterred, the group went to Motown’s Hitsville U.S.A. headquarters regularly, offering to provide extra help for Motown’s recordings, often including hand claps and background vocals. That year, the group recorded two tracks for Lu Pine Records, with Ross singing lead on one of the tracks. During the group’s early years, Ross served as hair stylist, make-up artist, seamstress, and costume designer. In late 1960, having replaced McGlown with Barbara Martin, the Primettes were allowed to record their own songs at Hitsville’s studio, many written by “Smokey” Robinson, who, by then, was vice president of Motown (“Your Heart Belongs to Me” and “A Breathtaking Guy”). Gordy, too, composed songs for the trio, including “Buttered Popcorn”(featuring Ballard on lead) and “Let Me Go the Right Way”. While these songs were regional hits, they were not nationwide successes.
In January 1961, Gordy agreed to sign the group on the condition they change their name. Eventually, Janie Bradford approached Florence Ballard, the only group member at the studio at the time, to pick out a new name for the group. Ballard chose “Supremes”, reportedly, because it was the only name on the list that did not end with “ette”. Upon hearing the new name, the other members weren’t impressed, with Ross telling Ballard she feared the group would be mistaken for a male vocal group (a male vocal group was, indeed, named the Supremes). Gordy signed the group under their name on January 15, 1962.
A year later, Barbara Martin left the group, reducing the quartet to a trio. In late 1963, the group had their first hit with “When the Lovelight Starts Shining Through His Eyes”, peaking at number 23 on the Billboard Hot 100 pop chart. At the end of the year, Gordy assigned Ross as the group’s lead singer, even though Ballard was usually the lead vocalist.
The group scored their first number-one hit with “Where Did Our Love Go”, paving the way for unprecedented success: between August 1964 and May 1967, Ross, Wilson, and Ballard sang on ten number-one hit singles, all of which also made the UK top 40. The group had also become a hit with audiences both domestically and abroad, going on to become Motown’s most successful vocal act throughout the sixties. Following significant issues with her comportment, weight, and alcoholism, Florence Ballard was fired from the Supremes by Gordy in July 1967, hiring Cindy Birdsong from Patti LaBelle and the Blue-Bells as Ballard’s replacement.
Gordy renamed the group Diana Ross & the Supremes, making it easier to charge a larger performance fee for a solo star and a backing group, as it did for other renamed Motown groups. Gordy initially considered Ross leaving the Supremes for a solo career in 1966 but changed his mind because the group’s success was still too significant for Ross to pursue solo obligations. Ross remained with the Supremes until early 1970. do you know where you’re going to KEY F
The group appeared as a trio of singing nuns in a 1968 episode of the popular NBC TV series Tarzan. Between their early 1968 single “Forever Came Today” and their final single with Ross, “Someday We’ll Be Together”, Ross would be the only Supremes member to be featured on many of their recordings, often accompanied by session singers the Andantes or, as in the case of “Someday, We’ll Be Together”, Julia and Maxine Waters and Johnny Bristol.
Gordy, drove Ross diligently throughout this period and Ross, due to anxiety arising from Gordy’s demands of her, began suffering from anorexia nervosa, according to her autobiography, Secrets of a Sparrow. During a 1967 performance in Boston, Massachusetts, Ross collapsed onstage, and had to be hospitalized for exhaustion. do you know where you’re going to
In 1968, Ross began to perform as a solo artist on television specials, including the Supremes’ own specials such as TCB and G.I.T. on Broadway, The Dinah Shore Show, and a Bob Hope special, among others. In mid-1969, Gordy decided that Ross would depart the group by the end of that year, and Ross began recording her initial solo work that July. One of the first plans for Ross to establish her own solo career was to publicly introduce a new Motown recording act.
Though she herself did not claim their discovery, Motown’s publicity department credited Ross with having discovered the Jackson 5. Ross would introduce the group during several public events, including The Hollywood Palace. In November, Ross confirmed a split from the Supremes in Billboard. Ross’ presumed first solo recording, “Someday We’ll Be Together”, was eventually released as a Supremes recording and became the group’s final number-one hit on the Hot 100. It was also the final number-one Billboard Hot 100 single of the 1960s. Ross made her final appearance with the Supremes at the Frontier Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada on January 14, 1970. do you know where youre going to
In May 1970, Ross released her eponymous solo debut, which included her signature songs, “Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand)” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”, the latter becoming Ross’ first number-one solo single. Follow-up albums, Everything Is Everything and Surrender came out shortly afterwards. In 1971, the ballad “I’m Still Waiting” became her first number-one single in the UK. Later in 1971, Ross starred in her first solo television special, Diana!, which included the Jackson 5.
In 1972, the soundtrack to her film debut, Lady Sings the Blues, reached number one on the Billboard 200, selling two million units. In 1973, Ross had her second number-one hit with the ballad “Touch Me in the Morning”. Later in the year, Motown issued Diana & Marvin, a duet album with fellow Motown artist Marvin Gaye. The album became an international hit. Touring throughout 1973, Ross became the first entertainer in Japan’s history to receive an invitation to the Imperial Palace for a private audience with the Empress Nagako, wife of Emperor Hirohito.
In April 1974, Ross became the first African-American woman to co-host the 46th Academy Awards, with John Huston, Burt Reynolds, and David Niven. do you know where you’re going to
After the release of a modestly successful LP, Last Time I Saw Him, Ross had a third number-one hit with “Theme from Mahogany (Do You Know Where You’re Going To)”, from her second feature film, Mahogany. A year later, in 1976, Ross released her fourth solo number-one hit, “Love Hangover”, a sensual, dramatic mid-tempo song that bursts into an uptempo disco tune. Later that year, Ross launched her “An Evening with Diana Ross” tour. The tour’s success led to a two-week stint at Broadway’s Palace Theatre and a 90-minute, Emmy-nominated television special of the same name, featuring special make-up effects by Stan Winston, for a scene in which Ross portrayed legendary cabaret artist Josephine Baker and blues singers Bessie Smith and Ethel Waters, and a Special Tony Award.
The albums Baby It’s Me and Ross sold modestly. In 1979, Ross released The Boss, continuing her popularity with dance audiences, as the title song became a number-one dance single. On July 16, 1979, Ross guest-hosted an episode of Johnny Carson’s The Tonight Show, featuring Lynda Carter, George Carlin, and Muhammad Ali as guests. Later that year, Ross hosted the HBO special, Standing Room Only, filmed at Caesar’s Palace’s Circus Maximus Theater in Las Vegas, Nevada, during her “Tour ’79” concert tour.This concert special is noted for its opening, during which Ross literally makes her entrance through a movie screen. In November of that year, Ross performed The Boss album’s title track as a featured artist during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, in New York City.
In 1980, Ross released her most successful album to date, Diana. Composed by Chic’s Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards, the album included the hits “I’m Coming Out” and “Upside Down”, the latter becoming her fifth chart-topping single. Prior to leaving Motown, Ross recorded the duet ballad “Endless Love”, with Lionel Richie. The song would become her sixth and final single to reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100. do you know where youre going to
Ross began negotiations to leave Motown at the end of 1980. After over 20 years with the label, Ross received US$250,000 as severance. RCA Records offered Ross a $20 million, seven-year recording contract, which gave her complete production control of her albums. Allegedly, before signing onto the label, Ross asked Berry Gordy if he could match RCA’s offer. Gordy stated that doing so was “impossible”. Ross then signed with RCA on May 20, 1981. At the time, Ross’s was music history’s most expensive recording deal.