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Ross, Diana

Diana Ross

Singer

As lead singer for The Supremes, the most successful female vocal group in pop music history, Diana Ross became world famous during the mid-1960s. She continued to fan the flames of stardom after becoming a solo act at the end of the decade and later received accolades as an actress in a number of star vehicles. In the process, she became one of the most influential and wealthiest women in show business.

"Although never a commanding instrument, Ross's small, syrupy voice with its dash of vinegar can convey a certain calculated poignancy," wrote Stephen Holden in the New York Times in 1991. Using this voice to deliver the songs of ace songwriters Eddie Holland, Lamont Dozier, and Brian Holland for Motown, Ross and The Supremes generated a phenomenal fourteen top-ten records from 1964 and 1967, including ten number-one hits. As a solo artist or in duets after leaving the Supremes, Ross continued climbing into the hit parade with a dozen top-ten singles from 1970 to 1985.

Grew Up in the Ghetto

Diana Ross was raised in the low-income Brewster-Douglass housing project in Detroit, where she had to share one bed with two sisters and three brothers. Despite the obvious hardship, Ross recalls her childhood as a happy one. "We always had a good life," she told Woman's Day in 1990. "It wasn't like we had gobs of money. But we always had what we needed somehow. Later on, I found out that our neighborhood is called the ghetto. But, basically, it was a warm, loving family environment. There was always something exciting going on."

Singing in the choir at the local Olivet Baptist church led to her meeting Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard, and the threesome later sang together at social functions. They joined up with Betty Anderson in 1959 to become The Primettes as a sister group to The Primes formed by Eddie Kendricks, which would later become The Temptations. Anderson was later replaced by Barbara Martinwho dropped out in 1962which solidified the group as a trio. Still in high school, the Primettes took in about $15 a week as performers. They also made some recordings for the small Lupine label, which weren't released until after the girls achieved stardom as the Supremes.

When the new Motown Records company was started in Detroit, Ross and her fellow singers began hanging around the building in hopes of being discovered. Ross gives a lot of credit to her mother in supporting her quest to become a singer. As she told Woman's Day, "She [her mother] said, 'Is this what you want to do? Do you think you can do this well?' And I said 'Yes.' And she said, 'I want you to finish high school and we'll do that.'" Berry Gordy, Jr., the creator of Motown, brought the Primettes and Primes on board in 1961. The Primettes were so young that their parents had to be in attendance when the contracts were signed. Gordy renamed the group The Supremes and used them primarily as backup singers for established Motown artists such as Marvin Gaye and Mary Wells.

During the next few years, Ross spent a good deal of time on the road gaining singing experience but not building her reputation to any degree. Although the group cut its first Motown single in 1961, they lacked the distinctive sound that was necessary to click with listening audiences. It wasn't until Gordy assigned Holland, Dozier, and Holland to create songs for them that the group struck a chord. The first of these songs, with Ross on lead, was the two-million seller "Where Did Our Love Go?" released in 1964. Within a year, the group recorded six number-one hits including "Baby Love," "Come See About Me," "Stop! In the Name of Love," "Back in My Arms Again," and "I Hear a Symphony."

Broke New Ground for Female Groups

Somewhat tame compared to other Motown acts of the time, The Supremes had a gentle sound supported by just enough of a beat to make their records danceable, which deftly accented Ross's appealing, youthful voice. In 1988, Rolling Stone listed "Stop! In the Name of Love" at number ten on its list of Top 100 singles in pop music. The Harmony Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock said that the "Supremes' '60s output with Holland/Dozier/Holland ranks among finest pop music ever."

In addition to closing the color gap in women's music in the 1960s, The Supremes made the music more marketable by presenting a glamorous image along with a touch of soul that was not demonstrated by other women's groups. Critical to the group's success, of course, was Diana Ross, who proved her versatility by applying the Motown sound to ballads, country and western songs, and even psychedelic numbers. As was indicated in Rolling Stone, the output of the Supremes was "almost a perfect song cycle, progressing steadily from the wide-eyed simplicity and sexy vulnerability of the first hit to the world-weary complexity of the last."

For the Record

Born Diane Ernestine Earle Ross on March 26, 1944, in Detroit, MI; daughter of Fred and Ernestine Ross; married Robert Ellis Silberstein, 1971 (divorced, 1976); married Arne Naess, Jr., 1985 (divorced, 2000); children: Rhonda, Suzanne, Tracee Joy, Chudney, Ross Arne, Evan.

Began singing as part of quartet with The Primettes, 1959; signed to Motown Records (group's name was changed to The Supremes), 1960; released first single with Supremes for Motown, 1961; left Supremes to pursue solo career, 1968; appeared on Broadway with one-woman show An Evening with Diana Ross, 1976; signed contract with RCA, 1980; returned to Motown, 1989; wrote the first volume of her autobiography Diana Ross: Secret of a Sparrow for Headline Books, 1993; with Roseanne Shelnutt co-authored the career scrapbook Diana Ross: Going Back for Universe Books, 2002; released the second volume of her autobiography Wrong Turns, Right Turns, and the Road Ahead for Reagan Books, 2004.

Awards: NAACP Image Award, Female Entertainer of the year, 1970; Antoinette Perry (Tony) Award, 1972; Golden Globe Award, Most Promising Newcomer, 1972; American Music Awards, Favorite Pop/Rock Album, 1974; Favorite Female Artist, Soul/R&B, and Favorite Single, Soul R&B, 1981; Favorite Female Artist, Pop/Rock, Favorite Single, Soul R&B, 1982; Favorite Female Artist, Soul/R&B, and Special Award of Merit, 1983; Inducted into Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame as member of Supremes, 1988; Guinness Book of World Records, Most Successful Female Singer of All Time, 1993; Soul Train Music Awards, Heritage Award for Career Achievement, 1995; inducted into Soul Train Hall of Fame, 1995; World Music Awards, Lifetime Achievement Award, 1996; National Academy of Popular Music, Songwriters Hall of Fame Hitmaker Award, 1998; BET Walk of Fame Award, 1999; National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS), Heroes Award, 2000.

Addresses: Record company Motown Records, 825 Eighth Ave., 28th Fl., New York, NY 10019, website: http://www.motown.com. Agent Rogers & Cowan PR, 1888 Century Park E., Ste. 500, Los Angeles, CA 90067. Website Diana Ross Official Website: http://www.dianaross.com.

Ross's personal relationship with label founder Berry Gordy enabled the singer to ditch the group's shared spotlight scenario for heightened individual status. As a result, in 1969, the group's name was changed to Diana Ross and The Supremes, although even then the lead singer was planning her departure from the trio. Her exit into a solo career became official after a final performance with The Supremes at the Frontier Hotel in Las Vegas in January of 1970. Her final Supremes recording in 1969, "Someday We'll Be Together," was the group's 12th number-one song with Ross. Various line-ups of the Supremes scored several top 40 hits, most notably "Up the Ladder to the Roof" and "Stoned Love," before they officially disbanded in 1976, only to be revived as a touring act with Mary Wilson as the lead singer in 1983.

Expanded Range as Solo Performer

Solo, Ross steadily moved up from the nightclub circuit to major concert tours in the 1970s. She hit the charts with Ashford and Simpson's "Reach Out and Touch (Somebody's Hand)" in 1970, and soared to number one with her version of "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" later that year. Under Gordy's careful direction, Ross was upgraded from pop singing superstar to rock and pop diva by appearing in elaborately staged performances and television specials.

Ross also ventured onto the big screen with a much heralded performance as Billie Holiday in 1972's Lady Sings the Blues. Ross earned an Academy Award nomination for her performance, but the film itself was not favorably reviewed. Her drawing power was evident in her being able to make that film and the subsequent Mahogany box office successes despite a lack of critical support. The soundtracks for her movies were also popular with the public.

With number one hits such as "Touch Me in the Morning," Ross transcended the pop formulas that had fueled the success of The Supremes. As a solo artist she concentrated largely on ballads that capitalized on her ability to generate emotion. For a time during the early 1970s, she focused on jazz numbers, and she often performed songs that had been part of Holiday's repertoire. She was especially acclaimed for her performance at Radio City Music Hall that closed the Newport (now New York) Jazz Festival in 1974. Then she shifted away from jazz and back to pop music, performing a wide range of pop standards along with her own music at concerts. Her repertoire ran the gamut from Rodgers and Hart songs to Beatles songs and show tunes, along with medleys of her hits with The Supremes.

Ross somewhat surprised audiences in 1976 when she ventured into the realm of disco music and recorded the number-one hit "Love Hangover." Meanwhile, her concert performances had become major media events. Robert Palmer wrote in the New York Times in 1977 that "in stage shows, she is perfectly at home with contemporary middle-of-the-road material. On records, she continued to be convincing as a rhythm-and-blues singer, performing an updated disco-style idiom." Ross added another category to her resume in 1978 when she starred in the movie version of the Broadway hit, The Wiz. She had purchased the rights to the film and had changed the character of Dorothy to an adult so that she could play a role, a move that was criticized by many at the time.

Left Motown for RCA

By the late 1970s, Ross's live show often featured tributes to legendary blues singers such as Josephine Baker, Ethel Waters, and Bessie Smith. However, by then she often drew criticism for overstaging her concert performances with extravagances in costuming and atmosphere that detracted from the music. Similar criticisms were launched about her 1977 television special, An Evening with Diana. Meanwhile, she went through stormy affairs with actor Ryan O'Neal and Gene Simmons of the rock group Kiss.

Ross's longtime relationship with Motown also soured. Claiming that she had "gone as far as I could in that relationship," according to Essence, she left Motown to sign a purported $20 million dollar contract with RCA for the United States, and one with Capitol for the rest of the world. She achieved immediate success with her new label with the release of Why Do Fools Fall in Love? in 1981. That year, she also paired up with Lionel Richie on the title song for the movie Endless Love, which turned out to be one of her major hits of the decade.

Demonstrating admirable business skills, Ross set up a number of corporations under her name and accumulated massive wealth during her solo years. She has often been called dictatorial in both her business and artistic ventures, as well as susceptible to drastic changes of mood. Many have blamed her for forcing Florence Ballard out of the Supremes, who left in the late 1960s, but Ross has denied it. In her 1993 autobiography, Secrets of a Sparrow, Ross recounted her life as a Supreme, solo performer, actress, business-woman, wife, and mother of five children. She wrote about her complicated relationship with Berry Gordy over the years, and tried to dispel some of the negative images that have proliferated in other books about her life.

Ross returned to Motown in 1989 with her Workin' Overtime album, with an additional role as partner on the company's board of directors. Her career lagged during the next few years. It was then resuscitated by her well-received 1991 album, The Force Behind the Power, which featured contemporary ballads written by Stevie Wonder and other artists. On other fronts, Ross initiated efforts to produce three made-for-television movies, two them star vehicles for her. In Out of Darkness, aired by ABC in January of 1994, she played a schizophrenic who is repeatedly institutionalized. In his review in People, David Hiltbrand wrote, "Ross's performance is inspired both in the ferocious beginning and later, in a more subdued fashion, in conveying the way regret and resolve commingle in a person who is recovering from an incapacitating disease that has hacked years out of her life."

In 1999, Ross co-starred with pop-singer Brandy in the ABC television movie, Double Platinum. The movie tells the story of the reunion of a young singer, played by Brandy, and the now-superstar mother who abandoned her (Ross). That same year, Ross released a new album entitled, Every Day Is A New Day. According to Michael Paoletta of Billboard, "the album is primarily steeped in lush ballads and sensual midtempo jams." However, Paoletta notes that Ross's cover of Martha Wash's "Carry On" is a definite stand out dance track and that Ross has given the song "a new lease on life." The album also featured several songs performed on the television movie Double Platinum.

Ross was arrested in September of 1999 after allegedly assaulting a female security officer at Heathrow airport in London, England. Ross, who was waiting to board a flight to New York, was subjected to a routine frisking after her silver belt buckle set off the metal detector. Ross claimed that the officer had touched her breast during the body search. Witnesses reported that Ross reacted by touching the security officer's breast and asking, "How do you like it?" After boarding her flight, the police removed Ross from the plane and placed her under arrest. Ross was held at the police station for five hours. "I sat in the police room crying my eyes out," Ross said in The Mirror. "I was frightened, absolutely terrified. I felt violated and humiliated." She was then released with a caution from police.

Return to Love Tour

Controversy began shortly after it was announced that Diana Ross and the Supremes would embark on a reunion tour in 2000. The tour, named the Return to Love tour, did not feature original Supreme Mary Wilson. When she was offered two million dollars and Ross was offered twenty million, Wilson, feeling that the offer was not a fair one, declined to join the tour. Wilson, whose financial disputes with Ross were highly publicized, told Jet that she felt an offer of "a third" of the tour's profits would have been more appropriate, considering that she is a founding member of the Supremes. Cindy Birdsong, who replaced original member Florence Ballard, also declined to appear after receiving an offer that, according to Wilson, "wasn't even a million." Instead, Scherrie Payne and Lynda Laurence, who Mary Wilson hired after Ross left the Supremes, were recruited for the tour.

The controversial tour was not a successful one. At most venues, less than half of the tickets were sold. Gary Bongiovanni, a concert magazine writer, told People Weekly that the public felt the tour "wasn't a real Supremes reunion." The tour's controversy was also flamed by frequent cancellations until, finally, the Return to Love tour was canceled due to low ticket sales.

The early 2000s were not kind to the fading superstar. A conviction on DUI (driving under the influence of alcohol) charges made her the subject of national ridicule via the television show Saturday Night Live. As a form of damage control, Ross addressed the controversies of her later career in 2004 with the second volume of her autobiography, Wrong Turns, Right Turns and the Road Ahead. Although her days as a commercial force seem spent, few artists have had as much of an impact on music, and the entertainment business overall, as Diana Ross.

Selected discography

Singles with The Supremes

"Where did Our Love Go?," 1964.

"Come See About Me," 1964.

"Baby Love," 1964.

"Stop! In the Name of Love!," 1965.

"Back in My Arms Again," 1965.

"I Hear a Symphony," 1965.

"My World Is Empty Without You," 1966.

"You Can't Hurry Love," 1966.

"You Keep Me Hangin' On," 1966.

"Love is Here and Now You're Gone," 1967.

"Reflections," 1967.

"The Happening," 1967.

"Love Child," 1968.

"I'm Gonna Make You Love Me," 1968.

"Someday We'll Be Together," 1969.

Solo singles

"Reach Out and Touch (Somebody's Hand)," 1970.

"Ain't No Mountain High Enough," 1970.

"Touch Me in the Morning," 1973.

"Do You Know Where You're Going To (Theme from 'Mahogany')," 1976.

"Love Hangover," 1976.

"Upside Down," 1980.

"Why Do Fools Fall in Love?," 1981.

"Missing You," 1985.

(With Marvin Gaye) "You're a Special Part of Me," 1973.

(With Lionel Richie) "Endless Love," 1982.

Albums with The Supremes

Meet the Supremes, Motown, 1964.

Live at the Apollo, Motown, 1964.

More Hits, Motown, 1965.

The Supremes Sing Motown, Motown, 1967.

Greatest Hits, Motown, 1968.

The Supremes Join the Temptations, Motown, 1969.

Solo albums

Diana Ross, Motown, 1970.

Lady Sings the Blues, Motown, 1972.

Greatest Hits, Motown, 1976.

Why Do Fools Fall in Love?, RCA/Capitol, 1981.

Swept Away, Capitol, 1984.

The Force Behind the Power, Motown, 1991.

Every Day Is A New Day, Motown, 1999.

Life & Love: The Very Best of Diana Ross, EMI, 2000.

The #1's, Motown 2004.

Sources

Books

Clifford, Mike, consultant, The Harmony Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock, sixth edition, Harmony Books, 1988.

Rees, Dafydd, and Crampton, Luke VH1 Rock Stars Encyclopedia, new edition, Dorling Kindersley, 1999.

Ross, Diana, Secrets of a Sparrow, Villard, 1993.

Whitburn, Joel, The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, seventh edition, Billboard Books, 2000.

Periodicals

Billboard, May 8, 1999; May 22, 1999; July 22, 2000.

Cosmopolitan, November 1989.

Ebony, February 1970.

Essence, October 1989.

Hollywood Reporter, May 18, 1999.

Interview, October 1981.

Jet, July 24, 2000; May 15, 2000.

The Mirror (London, England), September 23, 1999.

New York Daily News, July 9, 1974.

New York Times, July 15, 1976; March 4, 1977; July 25, 1977; February 19, 1989; September 21, 1991; November 17, 1993.

People, January 17, 1994; July 17, 2000.

Publisher's Weekly, November 1, 1993, p. 33.

Rolling Stone, November 23, 1972; September 8, 1988.

South China Morning Post, September 23, 1999.

Woman's Day, March 20, 1990.

Online

"Diana Ross," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (February 22, 2004).

"Diana Ross," Internet Movie Database, http://www.imdb.com (February 22, 2004).

Ed Decker and

Ken Burke

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Ross, Diana

Diana Ross

Singer

For the Record

Selected discography

Sources

When Diana Ross returned to Motown Records as a vocalist and partial owner in February 1989, it was announced on the front page of the New York Times business section as the Queen returning home. One of the most popular recording artists of the last 30 years, Diana Ross, with and without The Suprêmes, virtually defined the Motown sound. Her rise to fame, starting with the discovery of The Suprêmes, has become one of the primal myths of American popular music. She was born in Detroit, Michigan, on March 26, 1944, and raised in the Brewster-Douglass housing project there. She sang in the Olivet Baptist Church choir while studying design at Cass Technical High School. The Suprêmes originated when Ross and two friends, Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard, formed The Primettes as a sister group to Eddie Kendrickss The Primes.

Berry Gordy, Jr., founder and long-time president of Motown Records, based the popularity of his companys product on a steady danceable beat performed by close-harmony groups. He signed The Primes (renamed The Temptations) and hired The Primettes as one of many girl groups to back up Motown recording stars, including Marvin Gaye and Mary Wells. Recognizing their potential, he renamed them The Suprêmes and turned them over to his charm school, the Artists Development Department. When they graduated from high school, they were sent on the road with other Motown groups. Ross told Andy Warhol in an October 1981 Interview cover story that the tours were designed to bring them to the attention of not just the record-buying teen-age public, but also the media powers: Our first tour was a Motown revue and then we went on a Dick Clark tour. Dick Clark was very helpful, as was Ed Sullivan. Then the Murray the K [radio] Show was here in town. Between their training in social ettiquette and their exposure in live and television performances as a package deal with The Temptations, Marvin Gaye, and Stevie Wonder, The Suprêmes had everything but a unique sound.

Although Ross ascribed the groups success to the lessons of the charm school, rock music historians consider Gordys assignment of the writing team of Eddie Holland, Lamont Dozier, and Brian Holland to be a much greater contribution. The trio of voices combined with the three songwriters to produce a string of six consectuive Gold Records that truly defined the sound of The Suprêmes. The overlay of Rosss voice over the back-up sound of Wilson and Ballard repeating Baby baby made million sellers of Where Did Our Love Go?, Baby Love, Come See About Me, Stop! in the Name of Love, Back in My Arms Again, and I Hear a Symphony. The Suprêmes never had a

For the Record

Born March 26, 1944, in Detroit, Mich. ; daughter of James (a factory worker) and Ernestine (Earle) Ross; married Robert Silberstein (a manager of popular musicians), January 1971 (divorced, 1976); married Arne Naess (a shipping magnate), October 23, 1985; children: (first marriage) Rhonda Suzanne, Tracée Joy, Chudney (daughter); (second marriage) Ross Ame. Education: Graduated from Cass Technical High School, Detroit, Mich., 1962.

Singer, c. 1960. Member of vocal group The Primettes (later named The Suprêmes), c. 1960-68, (renamed Diana Ross and the Suprêmes, 1969); solo performer, 1970. Actress in motion pictures, including Lady Sings the Blues, 1972, Mahogany, 1975, and The Wiz, 1978. President of Diana Ross Enterprises (fashion merchandising), Anaid Film Productions, RTC Management Corp. (artists management), Chondee Inc., and Rosstown and Rossville music publishing companies. Part-owner of Motown Records, 1989.

Awards: Grammy Award for best female vocalist, 1970;Billboard, Cash Box, and Record World awards for best female vocalist, 1970; named female entertainer of the year, 1970, by National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) ; Academy Award nomination for best actress, 1972, for Lady Sings the Blues; Cue Award for entertainer of the year, 1972; Antoinette Perry (Tony) Award, 1977; inducted into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, 1988.

Addresses: Home Norway; New York, NY; and Beverly Hills, CA; Office RTC Management, P.O. Box 1683, New York, NY 10185; and c/o Shelly Berger, 6255 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90028.

bluesy sound or a heavy beatjust enough to dance to.

Novelist Jamaica Kincaid reminisced about the groups sound in a 1975 article in the Village Voice: I heard Baby Love and that was the greatest. Because just the way Diana Ross sounds on that particular record was just the way I wanted to be. It was so cool, so sexy, so sweet, so pretty, all of those things for two-and-a-half minutes.Rolling Stone was more analytical as it named Stop! in the Name of Love to number 10 on its 1988 list of Top 100 singles: [Holland, Dozier, and Hollands] grasp of the pop-music form enabled them to produce three-minute symphonies: simultaneously simple and intricate, ephemeral and yet enduring.Rolling Stone quoted Dozier about Berry Gordys input on the final mix-down: [It] was done through a radio speaker, since Gordy was ever mindful of how most of the audience would hear the music. We had to mix low and soft Berry would say, What are you guys mixing so loud for? If you can hear things down low and soft, thats what youre going to hear on the radio.

Their hits continued through 1969 as they reflected contemporary trends by adapting the basic Motown sound to ballads, country and western, and psychedelic rock in My World Is Empty without You (1966), The Happening (1967), and Love Child (1968). Rolling Stone recently described their fifteen singles after 1964 as almost a perfect song cycle, progressing steadily from the wide-eyed simpicity and sexy venerability of the first hit to the world-weary complexity of the last. Their album titles reflect the ability of the Motown producers to spread them throughout the marketMeet the Suprêmes, At the Copa (including standards), Country Western and Bop, Suprêmes a Go-Go, and their Beatles album A Bit of Liverpool.

Rosss departure from The Suprêmes was spread over six months. Ballard was replaced by Cindy Birdsong (of Patti LaBelles Bluebelle backup group) in 1969, and the act was renamed Diana Ross and the Suprêmes to recognize her role as lead singer. Her final departure came in a farewell performance at the Frontier Hotel in Las Vegas, January 1970. Their final recording as atrio, Someday Well Be Together, was a success. The changes in the groups structure from its founding to Rosss departure have been the focus of much speculation and many conflicting reports. Among many fictionalized accounts of the proceedings are roman a clef novels and the multi-award-winning Broadway musical Dreamgirls.

The solo career of Diana Ross began in night-clubs and proceeded into concert tours during the 1970s. Berry Gordy was quoted in Ebony, claiming that Dianas success is almost built in. Shes not taking a big chance because people are buying her like mad. Vegas is buying her. Miami is buying her, the Waldorf [Astoria Hotel] in New York. Shes a super-star and everybody is trying to buy her; like the stock market, shes up now because everything shes done has been a total success. Ross did jazz-oriented concerts at first, including a well-received appearance at Radio City Music Hall to end the 1974 Newport [now New York] Jazz Festival. As Harry Stathos described it in the New York Daily News, Surrounded by some of jazz-doms finest musicians, she then proceeded to show why she is considered one of the nations top singers with soulful renditions of well-known jazz standards made famous by Lady Day [Billie Holiday Good Morning Heartache, God Bless the Child, and Hes My Man.

Rosss commitment to jazz performances waned and she returned to pop and Motown ballads. Program listings included the Rodgers and Hart standard The Lady is a Tramp, Lennon/McCartney songs Yesterday and Michelle, and a medley of show tunes from Thoroughly Modern Millie and Mame, as well as the ever-present Suprêmes medley. As Robert Palmer put it in the New York Times in 1977, in stage shows, she is perfectly at home with contemporary middle-of-the-road material. On records, she continues to be convincing as a rhythm-and-blues singer, performing in an updated disco-style idiom.

Her appearances, with gowns by Bob Mackie and staging by Joe Layton, grew in complexity and were often accused of overemphasizing production values. Frequently cited was the opening of An Evening with Diana Ross, reviewed by Clive Barnes in the New York Times during a 1976 engagement at Broadways vaudeville pinnacle, the Palace Theater: The overture starts with the theme from her No. 1 hit, Mahagony. Miss Ross enters in a white flared gown. Her hands are slightly nervoustense against this special moment. She is suddenly flanked by a couple of mimes, one wearing white makeup on white, the other wearing black makeup on black, and both un morceau du Marceau. The skirt is pulled out to form a screen and on the screen, while [she] sings, are projected images of her singing.

Marie Moore, in the New York Amsterdam News, reviewed the finale of a live 1978 concert as as emotionally devastating as her opening. Singing into the mike in her hand and perched in the up-stretched hands of her four male dancers, the dynamic Diana Ross was whisked up the same staircase whence she had come. As she was devoured by the screen and dissolved into the celluloid, she was as she had started outa two dimensional figure in a film ascending the stairs. She generally included a tribute to blues greats Josephine Baker, Ethel Waters, and Bessie Smith in her live and televised acts. Ross backed up her extravaganzas with a list of personal recording hitsAshford and Simpsons Reach Out and Touch [Somebodys Hand]; Aint No Mountain High Enough, her new signature theme; Last Time I Saw Him; Remember Me; Touch Me in the Morning; Believe in Yourself; Home, from The Wiz; and, ironically, We are Family, from Dreamgirls.

Rosss television specials have been filmed live appearances or made-for-television shows designed and produced by Layton, as are her stage shows. A New York Times review of An Evening with Diana Ross (NBC-TV, 1977) criticized the special material that keeps getting in the way and the overly-done make-up that diminished her tribute to Baker, Smith, and Waters, but stated that when shes allowed simply to perform, the program bursts into theatrical life.

Her film career has been controversial. She had appeared with The Suprêmes on television and in films as a singing group/novelty on Tarzan and the film Beach Ball (1965), but had no formal training. Ross chose to make her official film debut portraying the jazz great Billie Holiday in Lady Sings the Blues (1972), produced by Gordy. Her personal reviews were favorable, but the film was generally considered a disappointment. Rosss second film, Mahagony (1975), was a melodrama about a fashion designer who finds unhappiness in Paris couture and returns to her home. Rosss own popularity and that of her co-star in both films, Billy Dee Williams, made them into box office successes. The Wiz (1978) has become a cult favorite for its production design by Tony Walton and its co-stars, Richard Pryor, Ted Ross, Lena Home, Nipsy Russell, and Michael Jackson. Diana Ross, who purchased the rights to the Broadway musical based on the Frank Baum stories, was criticized for playing the role of Dorothy. But Ross adapted the script so that the character, instead of being a young girl, was a shy adult nervous about functioning away from her family. The soundtracks to the first two films were successfully released by Motown and produced hit singles for the title songs.

Ross still presents concerts and personal appearances although she has cut down on long concert tours since her second marriage and the birth of young sons. The most publicized of her recent concerts was in New York Citys Central Park. Originally planned as a benefit for playground construction, it was plagued by problems. The first evening was rained out amid damage to the park caused by the crowd of more than 350, 000 fans. The second evening went as planned and was taped for broadcast on the cable network Showtime. Ross and her production company received criticism when it was announced that no profit was made on the concerts, especially after New York magazine analyzed the accounting for the events. Ross diffused the criticism by making a personal donation for the construction of a playground.

Ross has become a superstar with an international followingperhaps the first truly non-racial performer. She has been named to the Best Dressed list often in the last fifteen years. Her private life is covered by the press in detail and she has been the subject of at least six biographies. Her return to Motown as its superstar and investor will provide a new chapter in the continuing Diana Ross saga.

Selected discography

Major single releases; with The Suprêmes; released by Motown

Where Did Our Love Go?, July 1964.

Baby Love, October 1964.

Come See About Me, November 1964.

Stop! in the Name of Love!, February 1965.

Back in My Arms Again, May 1965.

Nothing But Heartaches, July 1965.

I Hear a Symphony, October 1965.

My World Is Empty Without You, January 1966.

Love Is Like an Itching in My Heart, April 1966.

You Cant Hurry Love, August 1966.

You Keep Me Hangin On, October 1966.

Love Is Here and Now Youre Gone, January 1967.

The Happening, April 1967.

Reflections, August 1967.

In and Out of Love, November 1967.

Love Child, October 1968.

Someday Well Be Together, November 1969.

LPs; with The Suprêmes; released by Motown

Meet the Supremes, 1964.

Live at the Apollo, 1964.

A Bit of Liverpool, 1965.

Where Did Our Love Go?, 1965.

Country Western and Bop, 1965.

Hits, 1965.

More Hits, 1965.

We Remember Sam Cooke, 1965.

Merry Christmas, 1965.

I Hear a Symphony, 1966.

Ago Go, 1966.

The Supremes Sing Motown, 1967.

The Supremes Sing Holland Dozier Holland, 1967.

The Supremes Sing Rodgers and Hart, 1967.

Greatest Hits, 1968.

Live at the Talk of the Town, 1968.

Reflections, 1968.

Love Child, 1969.

The Supremes Join the Temptations, 1969.

TCB, 1969.

Let the Sun Shine In, 1969.

LPs; solo

Diana Ross, Motown, 1970.

Everything Is Everything, Motown, 1971.

Touch Me in the Morning, Motown, 1973.

Lady Sings the Blues, Motown, 1973.

(With Marvin Gaye)Diana and Marvin, Motown, 1974.

Live at Caesars Palace, Motown, 1974.

Last Time I Saw Him, Motown, 1974.

Mahogany, Motown, 1975.

Greatest Hits, Motown, 1976.

Baby Its Me, Motown, 1977.

Ross, Motown, 1978.

Why Do Fools Fall in Love?, Capitol, 1981.

Silk Electrics, RCA, 1982.

Sources

Ebony, February, 1970.

Interview, October, 1981.

New York Amsterdam News, October 14, 1978.

New York Daily News, July 9, 1974.

New York Times, July 15, 1976; March 4, 1977; July 25, 1977; February 19, 1989.

Rolling Stone, November 23, 1972; September 8, 1988.

Village Voice, June 28, 1976.

Barbara Stratyner

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Ross, Diana 1944–

Diana Ross 1944

Singer and actress

At a Glance

Broke New Ground for Female Groups

Expanded Range as Solo Performer

Left Motown for RCA

Selected discography

Sources

As lead singer for the most successful female vocal group in pop music history, Diana Ross became world famous as a performer during the mid-1960s. She continued to fan the flames of her fame after becoming a solo act at the end of the decade and later received accolades as an actress in a number of star vehicles. Along with mega-stars such as Barbara Streisand, Ross became one of the most influential and wealthiest women in show business.

Although never a commanding instrument, Miss Rosss small, syrupy voice with its dash of vinegar can convey a certain calculated poignancy, wrote Stephen Holden in the New York Times in 1991. Using this voice to deliver the songs of ace songwriters Eddie Holland, Lamont Dozier, and Brian Holland for Motown, Ross and The Supremes generated a phenomenal fourteen top-ten records from 1964 and 1967, including ten number-one hits. As a solo artist or in duets after leaving the Supremes, Ross continued the hit parade with a dozen top-ten singles from 1970 to 1985.

Diana Ross was raised in the low-income Brewster-Douglass housing project in Detroit, where she had to share one bed with two sisters and three brothers. Despite the obvious hardship, Ross recalls her childhood as a happy one. We always had a good life, she told Womans Day in 1990. It wasnt like we had gobs of money. But we always had what we needed somehow. Later on, I found out that that neighborhood is called the ghetto. But, basically, it was a warm, loving family environment. There was always something exciting going on.

Singing in the choir at the local Olivet Baptist church led to her meeting Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard, and the threesome later sang together at social functions. They joined up with Betty Anderson in 1959, to become The Primettes as a sister group to The Primes formed by Eddie Kendricks, which would later become The Temptations. Anderson was later replaced by Barbara Martin, and Martin dropped out in 1962, to leave the group as a trio. As high school students, the Primettes took in about $15 a week as performers. They also made some recordings, but didnt get very far.

When the new Motown Records company was started in Detroit, Ross and her fellow singers began hanging around the building in hopes of being discovered. Ross gives a lot of credit to her mother in supporting her quest to become a

At a Glance

Born March 26, 1944, in Detroit, Ml; daughter of Fred (a factory worker) and Ernestine Ross, one of six children; married Robert Ellis Silberstein, 1971 (divorced, 1976); married Arne Naess, Jr., 1985; children: (first marriage) Rhonda, Suzanne, Tracée Joy, Chudney; (second marriage) Ross Arne, Evan.

Sang in Olivet Baptist church choir while in high school; began singing as part of quartet with The Primettes, 1959; signed up by Berry Gordy, Jr., to Motown Records (groups name was changed to The Supremes), 1960; sang backup for established Motown groups; released first single with Supremes for Motown, 1961; released first number-one hit single with Supremes, Where Did Our Love Go?, 1963; had 12 number-one hits with Supremes, 1964-69; left Supremes to pursue solo career, 1968; released first hit single as solo act, Reach Out and Touch (Somebodys Hand), 1970; left Motown and signed contract with RCA, 1980; had major hit in duet with Lionel Richie, Endless Love, 1981; returned to Motown, 1989. Actress in films and television, including Lady Sings the Blues, 1972; Mahogany, 1975; The Wiz, 1978; Out of Darkness (made-for-television), 1994. Appeared in television specials An Evening With Diana Ross, 1977 and Diana, 1981. President of Diana Ross Enterprises Inc., Anaid Film Productions, RTC Management Corporation, Chondee Inc., Rosstown, and Rossville Music Publishing.

Selected awards: Citation for efforts on behalf of President Lyndon Johnsons Youth Opportunity Program; citation from Mrs. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Reverend Ralph Abernathy for contributions to Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) cause; Grammy Award, Best Female Vocalist, 1970; Billboard, Cash Box, and Record World Awards for Best Female Vocalist, 1970; Female Entertainer of the year, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), 1970; Academy Award (R) nomination, Best Actress (Lady Sings the Blues), 1972; Cue Award, Entertainer of the Year, 1972; Tony Award, 1972; Golden Globe Award, 1972; Inductee, Rock n Roll Hall of Fame, 1988.

Addresses: Office RTC Management, PO Box 1683, New York, NY 10185; c/o Shelly Berger, 6255 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90028.

singer. As she told Womans Day, She [her mother] said, Is this what you want to do? Do you think you can do this well? And I said Yes. And she said, I want you to finish high school, and well do that. Berry Gordy, Jr., the creator of Motown, brought the Primettes and Primes on board in 1961. The Primettes were so young that their parents had to be in attendance when the contracts were signed. Gordy renamed the group The Supremes and used them primarily as backup singers for established Motown artists such as Marvin Gaye and Mary Wells.

During the next few years, Ross spent a good deal of time on the road gaining singing experience but not building her reputation to any degree. Although the group cut its first Motown single in 1961, they lacked the distinctive sound that was necessary to click with listening audiences. It wasnt until Gordy assigned Holland, Dozier, and Holland to create songs for them that the group struck a chord. The first of these songs, with Ross on lead as usual, was the two-million seller Where Did Our Love Go? released in 1964. Within a mere year, the group recorded six number-one hits that included Baby Love, Come See About Me, Stop! In the Name of Love, Back in My Arms Again, and I Hear a Symphony.

Broke New Ground for Female Groups

Somewhat tame compared to other Motown acts of the time, The Supremes had a gentle sound supported by Rosss almost girlish voice that had just enough of a beat to make it danceable. In 1988, Rolling Stone listed Stop! In the Name of Love at number ten on its list of Top 100 singles in pop music. The Harmony Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock said that the Supremes 60s output with Holland/Dozier/Holland ranks among finest pop music ever.

In addition to closing the color gap in womens music in the 1960s, The Supremes made the music more marketable by presenting a glamorous image along with a touch of soul that was not demonstrated by other womens groups. Critical to the groups success, of course, was Diana Ross, who proved her versatility by applying the Motown sound to ballads, country and western songs, and even psychedelic numbers. As was indicated in Rolling Stone, the output of the Supremes was almost a perfect song cycle, progressing steadily from the wide-eyed simplicity and sexy venerability of the first hit to the world-weary complexity of the last.

In 1969, the groups name was changed to Diana Ross and The Supremes to acknowledge Rosss stature, and by then the lead singer was planning her departure from the trio. Her exit into a solo career became official after a final performance with The Supremes at the Frontier Hotel in Las Vegas in January of 1970. Her final Supremess recordingin 1969, Someday Well Be Together, madeit to number one. It was the groups 12th number-one song with Ross.

Expanded Range as Solo Performer

On her own, Ross steadily moved up from the nightclub circuit to major concert tours in the 1970s. She hit the charts with Ashford and Simpsons Reach Out and Touch (Somebodys Hand) in 1970, then soared to number one with her version of Aint No Mountain High Enough later that year. Under Gordys careful direction, Ross was upgraded from pop singer to full-fledged superstar by appearing in more elaborately staged performances and television specials.

Ross also ventured onto the big screen with a much heralded performance as Billie Holiday in 1972s Lady Sings the Blues. Ross earned an Academy Award nomination for her performance, but the film itself was not favorably reviewed. Her drawing power was evident in her being able to make that film and the subsequent Mahogany in 1975, boxoffice successes despite a lack of critical support. The soundtracks for her movies were also popular with the public. While her portrayal of Lady Day was publicized as her official film debut, Ross had made some gratuitous appearances on screen with The Supremes in films such as Beach Ball in 1965.

With number-one hits such as Touch Me in the Morning, Ross transcended the pop formulas that had fueled the success of The Supremes. As a solo artist she concentrated largely on ballads that capitalized on her ability to generate emotion. For a time during the early 1970s she focused on jazz numbers, and she often performed songs that had been part of Holidays repertoire. She was especially acclaimed for her performance at Radio City Music Hall that closed the Newport (now New York) Jazz Festival in 1974. Then she shifted away from jazz and back to pop music, performing a wide range of pop standards along with her own music at concerts. Her repertoire ran the gamut from Rodgers and Hart songs to Beatless songs and show tunes, along with medleys of her hits with The Supremes.

Ross somewhat surprised audiences in 1976, when she ventured into the realm of disco music and recorded the number-one hit Love Hangover. Meanwhile, her concert performances had become major media events. Robert Palmer wrote in the New York Times in 1977 that in stage shows, she is perfectly at home with contemporary middle-of-the-road material. On records, she continues to be convincing as a rhythm-and-blues singer, performing an updated disco-style idiom. Ross added another category to her resume in 1978, when she starred in the movie version of the Broadway hit, The Wiz. She had purchased the rights to the film and had changed the character of Dorothy to an adult so that she could play the role, a move that was criticized by many at the time.

Left Motown for RCA

By the late 1970s Rosss concerts often featured tributes to legendary blues singers such as Josephine Baker, Ethel Waters, and Bessie Smith. However, by then she often drew criticism for overstaging her concert performances with extravagances in costuming and atmosphere that detracted from the music. Similar criticisms were launched about her 1977 television special, An Evening with Diana. Meanwhile, she went through stormy affairs with actor Ryan ONeal and Gene Simmons of the rock group Kiss.

Rosss longtime relationship with Motown also soured. Claiming that she had gone as far as I could in that relationship, according to Essence, she left Motown to sign a purported $20-million dollar contract with RCA for the United States, and one with Capitol for the rest of the world. She achieved immediate success with her new label with the release of Why Do Fools Fall in Love? in 1981. That year she also paired up with Lionel Richie on the title song for the movie Endless Love, which turned out to be one of her major hits of the decade.

Demonstrating superior business skills, Ross set up a number of corporations under her name and accumulated massive wealth during her solo years. She has often been called dictatorial in both her business and artistic ventures, as well as susceptible to drastic changes of mood. Many have blamed her for forcing Florence Ballard out of the Supremes, who left in the late 1960s, but Ross has denied it. In her 1993 autobiography, Secrets of a Sparrow, Ross recounted her life as a Supreme, solo performer, actress, businesswoman, wife, and mother of five children. She wrote about her complicated relationship with Berry Gordy over the years and tried to dispel some of the negative images that have proliferated in other books about her life.

Ross returned to Motown in 1989 with her Workin Overtime album, with an additional role as partner on the companys board of directors. Her career lagged during the next few years. Then it was resuscitated by her well-received 1991 album, The Force Behind the Power, which featured contemporary ballads written by Stevie Wonder and other artists. On other fronts, Ross initiated efforts to produce three made-for-television movies, two of them star vehicles for her. In Out of Darkness, aired by ABC in January of 1994, she played a schizophrenic who is repeatedly institutionalized. In his review in People, David Hiltbrand wrote, Rosss performance is inspired both in the ferocious beginning and later, in a more subdued fashion, in conveying the way regret and resolve commingle in a person who is recovering from an incapacitating disease that has hacked years out of her life.

Few women have had as much of an impact on music and the entertainment business overall as Diana Ross. Evolving from lead singer with one of the most successful female pop groups ever to blockbuster solo performer and recording artist, she has managed to achieve success with almost every change of identity. As was written in The Harmony Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock, Like all survivors, Ross has adapted well, handling pop, soul, disco, and rock masterfully.

Selected discography

Singles

With The Supremes

Where did Our Love Go?, 1964.

Baby Love, 1964.

Stop! In the Name of Love!, 1965.

I Hear a Symphony, 1965.

My World Is Empty Without You, 1966.

You Cant Hurry Love, 1966.

Reflections, 1967.

Love Child, 1968.

Someday Well Be Together, 1969.

Solo releases

Reach Out and Touch (Somebodys Hand), 1970.

Aint No Mountain High Enough, 1970.

Touch Me in the Morning, 1973.

Do You Know Where Youre Going To (Theme from Mahogany), 1976. Love Hangover, 1976. Upside Down, 1980. Why Do Fools Fall in Love?, 1981. Missing You, 1985.

With Marvin Gaye

Youre a Special Part of Me, 1973.

With Lionel Richie

Endless Love, 1982.

Albums

With The Supremes

Meet the Supremes, Motown, 1964.

Live at the Apollo, Motown, 1964.

More Hits, Motown, 1965.

The Supremes Sing Motown, Motown, 1967.

Greatest Hits, Motown, 1968.

The Supremes Join the Temptations, Motown, 1969.

Solo releases

Diana Ross, Motown, 1970.

Lady Sings the Blues, Motown, 1972.

Greatest Hits, Motown, 1976.

Why Do Fools Fall in Love?, RCA/Capitol, 1981.

Swept Away, Capitol, 1984.

The Force Behind the Power, Motown, 1991.

Sources

Books

Clifford, Mike, consultant, The Harmony Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock, sixth edition, Harmony Books, 1988, pp. 148-49, 169.

Ross, Diana, Secrets of a Sparrow, Villard Books, 1993.

Periodicals

Cosmopolitan, November 1989, pp. 280-85.

Ebony, February 1970.

Essence, October 1989, pp. 70-2, 128, 130, 133.

Interview, October 1981.

New York Daily News, July 9, 1974.

New York Times, July 15, 1976; March 4, 1977; July 25, 1977; February 19, 1989; September 21, 1991, p. 11; November 17, 1993, p. C-20.

People, January 17, 1994, p. 11.

Publishers Weekly, November 1, 1993, p. 33.

Rolling Stone, November 23, 1972; September 8, 1988.

Womans Day, March 20, 1990, pp. 55, 58, 60, 61.

Ed Decker

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Ross, Diana

Diana Ross

Born: March 26, 1944
Detroit, Michigan

African American singer and actress

Diana Ross, once the lead singer for the Motown supergroup the Supremes, was the most successful female singer of the rock and roll era. In the next few decades, she continued to enjoy success with a solo career and numerous television and film appearances.

Early life

Diana Ross was born on March 26, 1944, in Detroit, Michigan. She was the second of six children of Fred and Ernestine Ross, who lived in Brewster-Douglass, one of Detroit's low income housing districts. Because of her tight-knit family Ross grew up virtually unaware of the harsh life that surrounded her. While her family was active in the Baptist church choir, Diana learned secular music (nonreligious music) from a cousin. She played baseball and took tap dance and majorette lessons at Brewster Center.

At age fourteen Ross tried out for a part in a school musical, but was turned down. The brief failure turned into good fortune, as she was invited to sing with the Primettes, a girls' vocal group that included Florence Ballard (19431976) and Mary Wilson (1944) among its members. She sang with the Primettes throughout her high school years at Cass Technical High School, where she took sewing and fashion design courses. The male counterparts of the Primettes were called the Primes, and their members included Paul Williams (19391973) and Eddie Kendricks (19391992), who would later form part of the Motown superstar group the Temptations.

Primettes to Supremes

Yet another Motown superstar, Smokey Robinson (1940), introduced Ross and the Primettes at Motown Studios, where they visited frequently until they met Motown producer Berry Gordy (1929). Gordy instructed Ross and her friends to finish high school and come back, which they did in 1962. Ross, Ballard, and Wilson then signed a contract with Motown, and Ballard selected a name for the groupthe "Supremes"a name that Ross disliked.

The Supremes released a number of singles and often sang background vocals for Marvin Gaye (19391984) and Mary Wells (19431992). "Let Me Go the Right Way" became the first Supremes song to register on the national charts, and it enabled the group to join the touring Motor Town Revue. "Where Did Our Love Go?" was their first national number one hit, selling over two-million singles, and the Supremes became the Revue's opening act. Ross's ambition and talent helped the trio turn the fierce competition for recording songs at Motown in their favor, and she became the group's lead singer.

The Supremes proceeded to lead Motown and its outstanding artists into its heyday in the 1960s with a series of number one hits that included "Baby Love" (1964), "Stop! In the Name of Love" (1965), "Back in My Arms Again" (1965) and "I Hear a Symphony" (1966). A popular television group, the Supremes continued to skyrocket in popularity along with the Motown label, and their principal songwriting teamEddie Holland, Lamont Dozier, and Brian Hollandproduced many more of their number one songs, including "You Keep Me Hangin' On" (1966), "You Can't Hurry Love" (1966), "Love Is Here and Now You're Gone" (1967), and "The Happening" (1967).

A solo act

Holland-Dozier-Holland left Motown in 1967, and the Supremes entered their next phase with a new billing as Diana Ross and the Supremes. Florence Ballard was replaced by Cindy Birdsong, also in 1967. The year 1968 brought "Love Child," yet another top hit, this one written by the Supremes themselves. By this time rumors had begun to circulate about Ross leaving the group, and they reached their peak after her successful performance on the 1969 television special "Like Hep." Ross's last single with the group was the number one hit "Someday, We'll Be Together" (1969). She began her solo career after their last appearance together in January of 1970.

Things would only get better for Ross. Motown Records invested heavily in her new career, which debuted with "Reach Out and Touch (Somebody's Hand)" (1970). Many changes began to take place in her personal life as well. She had helped the Jackson Five get its start with Motown and Berry Gordy, and she had moved into her new Beverly Hills home. In 1971 Ross was married to Robert Silberstein, a pop-music manager, with whom she had three daughtersRhonda, Tracee, and Chudney.

Ross was cast as the legendary jazz singer Billie Holiday (19151959) in the Motown film production Lady Sings the Blues. Her critically acclaimed performance earned her an Academy Award nomination for best actress. In 1973 she returned to her customary position atop the national record charts with "Touch Me in the Morning." Her next film was Mahogany (1975), from which her "Theme from Mahogany" (1976) was nominated for the Academy Awards' best song in a motion picture and topped the record charts again. After her third daughter was born in 1975 she and Silberstein were divorced.

Ross's hit parade continued with the number one "Love Hangover" (1976). She closed out the decade with a Broadway show entitled An Evening With Diana Ross (19761977); a March 6, 1977, television special that featured her alone; and a portrayal as Dorothy in Motown's film production of the Broadway show The Wiz (1978).

Later career

Ross continued to perform in concerts, in Atlantic City and Las Vegas casinos, and at charity functions. Her 1980 single "Upside Down" was her sixteenth number one hit, a record surpassed only by the Beatles. She moved to Connecticut with her three daughters and in 1985 married Norwegian businessman Arne Naess, Jr. In 1989 Ross made a return to Motown with a new album titled Workin' Overtime, and in 1991 she worked with Stevie Wonder (1950) and other artists to make The Force Behind the Power, a group of modern ballads. In January of 1994, she was highly praised for her role as a mental patient in the ABC television movie Out of Darkness.

But tragedy tainted Ross's newfound success in film in 1996 when her brother, Arthur Ross, and his wife, Patricia Ann Robinson, were found smothered to death on June 22, in Oak Park, Michigan. Ross and her family put up a reward of twenty-five thousand dollars for any information leading to an arrest. In September of 1996, two men, Ricky Brooks and Remel Howard, were charged with the killings. Police had no motive at the time, only to say that drugs were involved.

Ross's attempt to jumpstart her professional career has been a difficult one. In 2000, a much-hyped reunion tour with the Supremes was canceled after only a few shows. Concert promoters noted lack of ticket sales as the reason for the cancellation. Another reason was the dispute between Ross and Mary Wilson, who turned down the reunion tour because she was offered considerably less money than Ross.

For More Information

Brown, Geoff. Diana Ross. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1981.

Davis, Sharon. Diana Ross: The Legend in Focus. Edinburgh: Mainstream, 2000.

Haskins, James. Diana Ross: Star Supreme. New York: Viking, 1985.

Ross, Diana. Diana Ross: Going Back. New York: Universe Publishers, 2002.

Wyeth, John, Jr. Diana Ross. New York: Chelsea House, 1996.

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Diana Ross

Diana Ross

Diana Ross (born 1944), once the lead singer for the Motown supergroup the Supremes, was the most successful female singer of the Rock 'n' Roll era. In the next few decades, she continued to enjoy success with a solo career and numerous television and film appearances.

Diana Ross was born on March 26, 1944, in Detroit, Michigan. She was the second of six children of Fred and Ernestine Ross, who lived in Brewster-Douglass, one of Detroit's low income housing districts. While her family was active in the Baptist church choir, Diana learned secular music from a cousin. She played baseball and took tap dance and majorette lessons at Brewster Center.

At age 14 Ross tried out for a part in a school musical, but was turned down. The brief failure turned into good fortune, as she was invited to sing with the Primettes, a girls' vocal group that included Florence Ballard and Mary Wilson among its members. She sang with the Primettes throughout her high school years at Cass Technical High School, where she took sewing and fashion design courses. The male counterparts of the Primettes were called the Primes, and their members included Paul Williams and Eddie Kendricks, who would later form part of the Motown superstar group the Temptations.

Yet another Motown superstar, Smokey Robinson, introduced Ross and the Primettes at Motown Studios, where they visited frequently until they met Motown producer Berry Gordy. Gordy instructed Ross and her friends to finish high school and come back, which they did in 1962. Ross, Ballard, and Wilson then signed a contract with Motown, and Ballard selected a name for the group—the "Supremes"—a name which Ross disliked.

The Supremes released a number of singles and often sang background vocals for Marvin Gaye and Mary Wells at local Detroit record hops. "Let Me Go the Right Way" became the first Supremes song to register on the national charts, and it enabled the group to join the touring Motor Town Revue. "Where Did Our Love Go?" was their first national number one hit, selling over two-million singles, and the Supremes became the Revue's opening act. Ross' ambition and talent helped the trio turn the fierce competition for recording songs at Motown in their favor, and she became the group's lead singer.

The Supremes proceeded to lead Motown and its outstanding artists into its heyday in the 1960s with a series of number one hits that included "Baby Love" (1964), "Stop! In the Name of Love" (1965), "Back in My Arms Again" (1965) and "I Hear a Symphony" (1966). A popular television group, the Supremes continued to skyrocket in popularity along with the Motown label, and their principal songwriting team—Eddie Holland, Lamont Dozier, and Brian Holland—produced many more of their number one songs, including "You Keep Me Hangin' On" (1966), "You Can't Hurry Love" (1966), "Love Is Here and Now You're Gone" (1967), and "The Happening" (1967).

Holland-Dozier-Holland left Motown in 1967, and the Supremes entered their next phase with a new billing as Diana Ross and the Supremes. Florence Ballard was replaced by Cindy Birdsong, also in 1967. The year 1968 brought "Love Child," yet another top hit, this one written by themselves. By this time rumors had begun to circulate about Ross leaving the group, and they reached their peak when her performance in the 1969 television special "Like Hep" outdid co-stars Lucille Ball, Dinah Shore, and comedians Rowan and Martin. Diana Ross' last single with the group was, ironically, the number one hit "Someday, We'll Be Together" (1969). Indeed, she began her solo career after their last appearance together in January of 1970.

Things would only get better for Ross. Motown Records invested heavily in her new career, which debuted with "Reach Out and Touch (Somebody's Hand)" (1970). Many changes began to take place in her personal life as well. She had helped the Jackson 5 get its start with Motown with her well-developed business acumen that she had learned from Berry Gordy, and she had moved into her new Beverly Hills home. In 1971 Ross was married to Robert Silberstein, a pop-music manager, with whom she had three daughters— Rhonda, Tracee, and Chudney.

Diana Ross was cast as the legendary jazz singer Billie Holiday in the Motown film production Lady Sings the Blues. Her critically acclaimed performance earned her an Academy Award nomination for best actress. In 1973 she returned to her customary position atop the national record charts with "Touch Me in the Morning." Her next film was Mahogany (1975), from which her "Theme From Mahogany" (1976) was nominated for the Academy Awards' best song in a motion picture and topped the record charts again. After her third daughter was born in 1975 she and Silberstein were divorced.

Ross' hit parade continued with the number one "Love Hangover" (1976). She closed out the decade with a Broadway show entitled "An Evening With Diana Ross" (1976-1977); a March 6, 1977, television special that featured her alone; and a portrayal as Dorothy in Motown's film production of the Broadway show The Wiz (1978).

Ross continued to perform in concerts, in Atlantic City and Las Vegas casinos, and in charity functions. Her 1980 single "Upside Down" was her 16th number one hit, a record surpassed only by the Beatles. She moved to Connecticut with her three daughters and in 1985 married Norwegian shipping tycoon Arne Naess, Jr. In 1989, Ross made a return to Motown with a new album titled "Workin' Overtime", and in 1991 collaborated with Stevie Wonder and other artists to make "The Force Behind the Power", a group of contemporary ballads. In January of 1994, she received critical acclaim for her role as a schizophrenic in the ABC television movie Out of Darkness.

But tragedy marred Ross' new-found success in film in 1996 when her brother, Arthur Ross, and his wife, Patricia Ann Robinson, were found smothered to death on June 22, in Oak Park, Michigan. Ross and her family put up a reward of $25,000 for any information leading to an arrest. In September of 1996, two men, Ricky Brooks and Remel Howard, were charged with the killings. Police had no motive at the time, only to say that drugs were involved. "Like all survivors," quotes The Harmony Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock, "Ross has adapted well, handling pop, soul, disco and rock masterfully." And as evident in a recent interview with Ross and her daughters, she was handling her life in that same fashion.

Further Reading

Tributes to the hard working Diana Ross' personification of the American dream are numerous. Her biographies include Leonore K. Itkowitz, Diana Ross (1974), Geoff Brown, Diana Ross (1981), J. Rand Taraborrelli's Diana (1985), and Diana Ross by James Haskins (1985). Her autobiography, Secrets of a Sparrow, was published in 1995. □

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Ross, Diana

Ross, Diana (1944– ) US popular singer. Ross began a career with the vocal trio, The Supremes, whose Motown hits included “Where Did Our Love Go?” (1964) and “Baby Love” (1964). In 1969, she left to pursue a solo career. Her hits include “Reach Out and Touch (Somebody's Hand)” (1970).

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"Ross, Diana." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved June 25, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/ross-diana

Ross, Diana 1944–

Diana Ross 1944

Singer and actress

Grew Up in the Ghetto

Broke New Ground for Female Groups

Expanded Range as Solo Performer

Left Motown for RCA

Supreme Reunion

Selected discography

Sources

As lead singer for the most successful female vocal group in pop music history, Diana Ross became world famous as a performer during the mid-1960s. She continued to fan the flames of her fame after becoming a solo act at the end of the decade and later received accolades as an actress in a number of star vehicles. Along with mega-stars such as Barbara Streisand, Ross became one of the most influential and wealthiest women in show business.

Although never a commanding instrument, Miss Rosss small, syrupy voice with its dash of vinegar can convey a certain calculated poignancy, wrote Stephen Holden in the New York Times in 1991. Using this voice to deliver the songs of ace songwriters Eddie Holland, Lamont Dozier, and Brian Holland for Motown, Ross and The Supremes generated a phenomenal fourteen top-ten records from 1964 and 1967, including ten number-one hits. As a solo artist or in duets after leaving the Supremes, Ross continued the hit parade with a dozen top-ten singles from 1970 to 1985.

Grew Up in the Ghetto

Diana Ross was raised in the low-income Brewster-Douglass housing project in Detroit, where she had to share one bed with two sisters and three brothers. Despite the obvious hardship, Ross recalls her childhood as a happy one. We always had a good life, she told Womans Day in 1990. It wasnt like we had gobs of money. But we always had what we needed some how. Later on, I found out that neighborhood is called the ghetto. But, basically, it was a warm, loving family environment. There was always something exciting going on.

Singing in the choir at the local Olivet Baptist church led to her meeting Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard, and the threesome later sang together at social functions. They joined up with Betty Anderson in 1959, to become The Primettes as a sister group to The Primes formed by Eddie Kendricks, which would later become The Temptations. Anderson was later replaced by Barbara Martin, and Martin dropped out in 1962, to leave the group as a trio. As high school students, the Primettes took in about $15 a week as performers. They also made some recordings, but didnt get very far.

When the new Motown Records company was started in Detroit, Ross and her fellow singers began hanging around the building in hopes of being discovered. Ross gives a lot of credit to her mother in supporting her

At a Glance

Born March 26, 1944, in Detroit, Ml; daughter of Fred and Ernestine Ross, one of six children; married Robert Ellis Silberstein, 1971 (divorced, 1976); married Arne Naess, Jr., 1985 (divorced, 2000); children: (first marriage) Rhonda, Suzanne, Tracee Joy, Chudney; (second marriage) Ross Ame, Evan.

Career: Began singing as part of quartet with The Primettes, 1959; signed to Motown Records (groups name was changed to The Supremes), 1960; released first single with Supremes for Motown, 1961; left Supremes to pursue solo career, 1968; signed contract with RCA, 1980; returned to Motown, 1989. Actress in films and television, including Lady Sings the Blues, 1972; Mahogany 1975; The Wiz, 1978; Out of Darkness (TV), 1994; Double Platinum (TV), 1999. Appeared in television specials An Evening With Diana Ross, 1977 and Diana, 1981. President of Diana Ross Enterprises Inc., Anaid Film Productions, RTC Management Corporation, Chondee Inc., Rosstown, and Rossville Music Publishing.

Selected awards: Citation, President Lyndon Johnson; citation, SCLC; Grammy Award, Best Female Vocalist, 1970; Billboard, Cash Box, and Record World Awards for Best Female Vocalist, 1970; Female Entertainer of the year, NAACP, 1970; Academy Award nominee, Best Actress (Lady Sings the Blues), 1972; Cue Award, Entertainer of the Year, 1972; Tony Award, 1972; Golden Globe Award, 1972; Gold Medal Award, Photoplay, 1972; Inductee, Rock n Roll Hall of Fame, 1988.

Addresses: Home Norway; New York, NY; Beverly Hills, CA. Office RTC Management, PO Box 1683, New York, NY 10185; c/o Shelly Berger, 6255 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90028.

quest to become a singer. As she told Womans Day, She [her mother] said, Is this what you want to do? Do you think you can do this well? And I said Yes. And she said, I want you to finish high school and well do that. Berry Gordy, Jr., the creator of Motown, brought the Primettes and Primes on board in 1961. The Primettes were so young that their parents had to be in attendance when the contracts were signed. Gordy renamed the group The Supremes and used them primarily as backup singers for established Motown artists such as Marvin Gaye and Mary Wells.

During the next few years, Ross spent a good deal of time on the road gaining singing experience but not building her reputation to any degree. Although the group cut its first Motown single in 1961, they lacked the distinctive sound that was necessary to click with listening audiences. It wasnt until Gordy assigned Holland, Dozier, and Holland to create songs for them that the group struck a chord. The first of these songs, with Ross on lead as usual, was the two-million seller Where Did Our Love Go? released in 1964. Within a mere year, the group recorded six number-one hits that included Baby Love, Come See About Me, Stop! In the Name of Love, Back in My Arms Again, and I Hear a Symphony.

Broke New Ground for Female Groups

Somewhat tame compared to other Motown acts of the time, The Supremes had a gentle sound supported by Rosss almost girlish voice that had just enough of a beat to make it danceable. In 1988, Rolling Stone listed Stop! In the Name of Love at number ten on its list of Top 100 singles in pop music. The Harmony Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock said that the Supremes 60s output with Holland/Dozier/Holland ranks among finest pop music ever.

In addition to closing the color gap in womens music in the 1960s, The Supremes made the music more marketable by presenting a glamorous image along with a touch of soul that was not demonstrated by other womens groups. Critical to the groups success, of course, was Diana Ross, who proved her versatility by applying the Motown sound to ballads, country and western songs, and even psychedelic numbers. As was indicated in Rolling Stone, the output of the Supremes was almost a perfect song cycle, progressing steadily from the wide-eyed simplicity and sexy venerability of the first hit to the world-weary complexity of the last.

In 1969, the groups name was changed to Diana Ross and The Supremes to acknowledge Rosss stature, and by then the lead singer was planning her departure from the trio. Her exit into a solo career became official after a final performance with The Supremes at the Frontier Hotel in Las Vegas in January of 1970. Her final Supremess recording in 1969, Someday Well Be Together, made it to number one. It was the groups 12th number-one song with Ross.

Expanded Range as Solo Performer

On her own, Ross steadily moved up from the nightclub circuit to major concert tours in the 1970s. She hit the charts with Ashford and Simpsons Reach Out and Touch (Somebodys Hand) in 1970, then soared to number one with her version of Aint No Mountain High Enough later that year. Under Gordys careful direction, Ross was upgraded from pop singer to full-fledged superstar by appearing in more elaborately staged performances and television specials.

Ross also ventured onto the big screen with a much heralded performance as Billie Holiday in 1972s Lady Sings the Blues. Ross earned an Academy Award nomination for her performance, but the film itself was not favorably reviewed. Her drawing power was evident in her being able to make that film and the subsequent Mahogany in 1975 box office successes despite a lack of critical support. The soundtracks for her movies were also popular with the public. While her portrayal of Lady Day was publicized as her official film debut, Ross had made some gratuitous appearances on screen with The Supremes in films such as Beach Ball in 1965.

With number-one hits such as Touch Me in the Morning, Ross transcended the pop formulas that had fueled the success of The Supremes. As a solo artist she concentrated largely on ballads that capitalized on her ability to generate emotion. For a time during the early 1970s she focused on jazz numbers, and she often performed songs that had been part of Holidays repertoire. She was especially acclaimed for her performance at Radio City Music Hall that closed the Newport (now New York) Jazz Festival in 1974. Then she shifted away from jazz and back to pop music, performing a wide range of pop standards along with her own music at concerts. Her repertoire ran the gamut from Rodgers and Hart songs to Beatless songs and show tunes, along with medleys of her hits with The Supremes.

Ross somewhat surprised audiences in 1976, when she ventured into the realm of disco music and recorded the number-one hit Love Hangover. Meanwhile, her concert performances had become major media events. Robert Palmer wrote in the New York Times in 1977 that in stage shows, she is perfectly at home with contemporary middle-of-the-road material. On records, she continues to be convincing as a rhythm-and-blues singer, performing an updated disco-style idiom. Ross added another category to her resume in 1978, when she starred in the movie version of the Broadway hit, The Wiz. She had purchased the rights to the film and had changed the character of Dorothy to an adult so that she could play a role, a move that was criticized by many at the time.

Left Motown for RCA

By the late 1970s Rosss concerts often featured tributes to legendary blues singers such as Josephine Baker, Ethel Waters, and Bessie Smith. However, by then she often drew criticism for overstaging her concert performances with extravagances in costuming and atmosphere that detracted from the music. Similar criticisms were launched about her 1977 television special, An Evening with Diana. Meanwhile, she went through stormy affairs with actor Ryan ONeal and Gene Simmons of the rock group Kiss.

Rosss longtime relationship with Motown also soured. Claiming that she had gone as far as I could in that relationship, according to Essence, she left Motown to sign a purported $20-million dollar contract with RCA for the United States, and one with Capitol for the rest of the world. She achieved immediate success with her new label with the release of Why Do Fools Fall in Love? in 1981. That year she also paired up with Lionel Richie on the title song for the movie Endless Love, which turned out to be one of her major hits of the decade.

Demonstrating superior business skills, Ross set up a number of corporations under her name and accumulated massive wealth during her solo years. She has often been called dictatorial in both her business and artistic ventures, as well as susceptible to drastic changes of mood. Many have blamed her for forcing Florence Ballard out of the Supremes, who left in the late 1960s, but Ross has denied it. In her 1993 autobiography, Secrets of a Sparrow, Ross recounted her life as a Supreme, solo performer, actress, businesswoman, wife, and mother of five children. She wrote about her complicated relationship with Berry Gordy over the years, and tried to dispel some of the negative images that have proliferated in other books about her life.

Ross returned to Motown in 1989 with her Workin Overtime album, with an additional role as partner on the companys board of directors. She career lagged during the next few years. Then it was resuscitated by her well-received 1991 album, The Force Behind the Power, which featured contemporary ballads written by Stevie Wonder and other artists. On other fronts, Ross initiated efforts to produce three made-for-television movies, two them star vehicles for her. In Out of Darkness, aired by ABC in January of 1994, she played a schizophrenic who is repeatedly institutionalized. In his review in People, David Hiltbrand wrote, Rosss performance is inspired both in the ferocious beginning and later, in a more subdued fashion, in conveying the way regret and resolve commingle in a person who is recovering from an incapacitating disease that has hacked years out of her life.

In 1999, Ross co-starred with pop-singer Brandy in the ABC television movie, Double Platinum. The movie tells the story of the reunion of a young singer, played by Brandy, and the now-superstar mother who abandoned her (Ross). According to Hollywood Reporter, the movie delivers a series of musical extravaganzas.

That same year, Ross released a new album entitled, Every Day Is A New Day. According to Michael Paoletta of Billboard, the album is primarily steeped in lush ballads and sensual midtempo jams. However, Paoletta notes that Rosss cover of Martha Washs Carry On is a definite stand-out dance track and that Ross has given the song a new lease on life. The album also featured several songs performed on the television movie Double Platinum.

Ross was arrested in September of 1999 after allegedly assaulting a female security officer at Heathrow airport in London, England. Ross, who was waiting to board a flight to New York, was subjected to a routine frisking after her silver belt buckle set off the metal detector Ross claimed that the officer had touched her breast during the body search. Witnesses reported that Ross reacted by touching the security officers breast and asking, How do you like it? After boarding her flight, the police removed Ross from the plane and placed her under arrest. Ross was held at the police station for five hours. I sat in the police room crying my eyes out, Ross said in The Mirror. I was frightened, absolutely terrified. I felt violated and humiliated. She was then released with a caution from police.

Supreme Reunion

Controversy began shortly after it was announced that Diana Ross and the Supremes would embark on a reunion tour in 2000. The tour, named the Return to Love tour, did not feature original Supreme Mary Wilson. When she was offered $2 million dollars and Ross was offered $20 million, Wilson, feeling that the offer was not a fair one, declined to join the tour. Wilson, whose financial disputes with Ross were highly publicized, told Jet that she felt an offer of a third of the tours profits would have been more appropriate, considering that she is a founding member of the Supremes. Cindy Birdsong, who replaced original member Florence Ballard, also declined to appear after receiving an offer that, according to Wilson, wasnt even a million. Instead, Scheme Payne and Lynda Laurence, who Mary Wilson hired after Ross left the Supremes, were recruited for the tour.

The controversial tour was not a successful one. At most venues, less than half of the tickets were sold. Gary Bongiovanni, a concert magazine writer, told People Weekly that the public felt the tour wasnt a real Supremes reunion. The tours controversy was also flamed by frequent cancellations until, finally, the Return to Love tour was canceled due to low ticket sales.

Few women have had as much of an impact on music and the entertainment business overall as Diana Ross. Evolving from lead singer with one of the most successful female pop groups ever to blockbuster solo performer and recording artist, she has managed to achieve success with almost every change of identity. As was written in The Harmony Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock, Like all survivors, Ross has adapted well, handling pop, soul, disco and rock masterfully.

Selected discography

Singles

With The Supremes

Where did Our Love Go?,1964.

Baby Love, 1964.

Stop! In the Name of Love!, 1965.

I Hear a Symphony, 1965.

My World Is Empty Without You, 1966.

You Cant Hurry Love, 1966.

Reflections, 1967.

Love Child, 1968.

Someday Well Be Together, 1969.

Solo releases

Reach Out and Touch (Somebodys Hand), 1970.

Aint No Mountain High Enough, 1970.

Touch Me in the Morning, 1973.

Do You Know Where Youre Going To (Theme from Mahogany), 1976.

Love Hangover, 1976.

Upside Down, 1980.

Why Do Fools Fall in Love?, 1981.

Missing You, 1985.

With Marvin Gaye

Youre a Special Part of Me, 1973.

With Lionel Richie

Endless Love, 1982.

Albums

With The Supremes

Meet the Supremes, Motown, 1964.

Live at the Apollo, Motown, 1964.

More Hits, Motown, 1965.

The Supremes Sing Motown, Motown, 1967.

Greatest Hits, Motown, 1968.

The Supremes Join the Temptations, Motown, 1969.

Solo releases

Diana Ross, Motown, 1970.

Lady Sings the Blues, Motown, 1972.

Greatest Hits, Motown, 1976.

Why Do Fools Fall in Love?, RCA/Capitol, 1981.

Swept Away, Capitol, 1984.

The Force Behind the Power, Motown, 1991.

Every Day Is A New Day, 1999.

Sources

Books

Clifford, Mike, consultant, The Harmony Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock, sixth edition, Harmony Books, 1988, pp. 148-49, 169.

Ross, Diana, Secrets of a Sparrow, Villard Books, 1993.

Periodicals

Billboard, May 8, 1999, May 22, 1999, July 22, 2000.

Cosmopolitan, November 1989, pp. 280-85.

Ebony, February 1970.

Essence, October 1989, pp. 70-2, 128, 130, 133.

Hollywood Reporter, May 18, 1999.

Interview, October 1981.

Jet, July 24, 2000, May 15, 2000.

The Mirror (London, England), September 23, 1999.

New York Daily News, July 9, 1974.

New York Times, July 15, 1976; March 4, 1977; July 25, 1977; February 19, 1989; September 21, 1991, p. 11; November 17, 1993, p. C-20.

People, January 17, 1994, p. 11.

People Weekly, July 17, 2000.

Publishers Weekly, November 1, 1993, p. 33.

Rolling Stone, November 23, 1972; September 8, 1988.

South China Morning Post, September 23, 1999.

Womans Day, March 20, 1990, pp. 55, 58, 60, 61.

Ed Decker and Jennifer M. York

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"Ross, Diana 1944–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 25 Jun. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Ross, Diana 1944–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (June 25, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/ross-diana-1944-0

"Ross, Diana 1944–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Retrieved June 25, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/ross-diana-1944-0