Welcome to Feature Fridays! Each week, music library staff highlight an item from our collection. While the music library is closed, we will feature items that are available for streaming. This week guest blogger Hannah Ruth Wellons, Operations Specialist at Bender Library, reviews The Millennium Collection: Best Of Diana Ross & The Supremes.
Growing up, my family never listened to contemporary pop music. We generally listened to a radio station that played “oldies”—60s, 70s, and 80s music. Today, that station mostly plays 70s and 80s music, leaving behind what to me is one of the greatest decades in contemporary music history: the 60s. Few genres exemplify the pop sound of the 60s more than Motown, and one group stands out from the rest of the pack, to me at least, as the best of what Motown has to offer: The Supremes.
The Supremes was founded by Florence Ballard, Mary Wilson, and Diana Ross as The Primettes while the girls were still in high school in Detroit, Michigan. Diana Ross reached out to an old neighbor, Smokey Robinson of The Miracles, to help them land an audition for Berry Gordy, a Motown executive. Gordy loved their sound but didn’t initially sign them due to their age, telling them to come back once they graduated. He agreed to let them sing back-up for singers like Marvin Gaye, and despite his initial refusal due to their age, a year later, Gordy signed the group under the condition that they change their group name. Ballard selected “The Supremes” because it was the only name on Gordy’s list of approved names that didn’t end in -ette. After twelve number-one hit singles, multiple shuffles of group members, and seven years of performing and touring, Diana Ross left The Supremes in 1970. She embarked on an extremely successful solo career. The Supremes disbanded in 1977 when the last original group member, Mary Wilson, decided to leave.
Today, The Supremes are known as the best charting female group in American history with a total of 12 number-one hit singles on the Billboard Hot 100 Charts. Diana Ross, their lead singer from 1959 – 1970, is also a Golden Globes winner, Academy Award nominee, inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with The Supremes, a Kennedy Center Honoree, and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
I selected this Millennium Collection of Diana Ross & The Supremes greatest hits as this week’s feature for a few reasons. First of all, I think it’s important that we know the influences behind our favorite music. Have you ever listened to Michael Jackson or the Jackson Five? You can thank Diana Ross—she discovered them. Madonna was heavily influenced by The Supremes and by Diana Ross’s solo career. The success of The Supremes paved the way for the success of future R&B and pop groups like Destiny’s Child. The influence of Diana Ross & The Supremes’—an all-Black all-girl group succeeding in a period when white men’s voices were the norm—cannot be understated.
Second, I think the music of Diana Ross & The Supremes is really easy to listen to. It’s familiar and catchy. During the course of the pandemic, I’ve listened to a lot of music, both new to me and tried and true favorites. I always return to music of the 60s and to the Supremes. This album in particular is an excellent compilation of The Supremes greatest hits, with and without Diana Ross as the lead singer. Volume One is the music of The Supremes with Diana Ross as a lead singer, and Volume Two is their music after she left in 1970 through to 1977 when the group officially disbanded. Containing hits like “Come See About Me,” “Stop! In the Name of Love,” “Love Child,” and “Floy Joy,’ these albums offer a musical insight into the sound of the 1960s. I highly recommend this collection for anyone who is feeling nostalgic and wants to spend their afternoon listening to oldies music and for anyone who wants something that is both captivating and easy to listen to.
The Millennium Collection: Best Of Diana Ross & The Supremes and other music by the Supremes is available for streaming from Alexander Street with your AU login.