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Ross, Diana

Ross, Diana

March 26, 1944

Born in a low-income housing project in Detroit, Diana Ross developed an interest in music at an early age, when she sang with her parents in a church choir. In high school she studied dress design, illustration, and cosmetology, spending her free time singing on Detroit street corners with her friends Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard. Betty McGlowan was soon added to the group, and the quartet became known as the Primettes. They came to the attention of Motown Records founder Berry Gordy, who used them as background singers for Mary Wells, Marvin Gaye, and the Shirelles. The group was renamed the Supremes, and from the mid-1960s to 1970 they were one of the most popular groups in pop music, with a string of influential hits. In 1970, however, Ross, who had always sought to dominate what was nominally a balanced trio, left to pursue a solo career.

After leaving the Supremes, Ross's popularity continued ("Ain't No Mountain High Enough," 1970), and she also began a career as a film actress. She was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance as Billie Holiday in Lady Sings the Blues (1972), and starred in Mahagony (1975), which yielded the hit ballad "Do You Know Where You're Going To?" the next year. By the mid-1970s Ross was also considered a top disco diva, recording "Love Hangover" (1976) and "Upside Down" (1980). During this time she also had a starring role in the musical film The Wiz (1978).

Ross reached the top of the pop charts again in 1981 with "Endless Love," a duet with Lionel Ritchie. Since then she has recorded less frequently (Muscles, 1982; Eaten Alive, 1985; and Workin' Overtime, 1989; The Force Behind the Power, 1991; Every Day Is a New Day, 1999). Ross, who was married from 1971 to 1975 to Robert Silberstine, was remarried in 1985 to the Norwegian shipping tycoon and mountaineer Arne Naess. They have two sons and live in Norway and Connecticut.

Ross has had nineteen number-one recordings on the pop chartsthe most to date for a solo performerand continues to perform sporadically in concert and on television. In the 1990s she produced and appeared in the made-for-television movies Out of Darkness (1994) and Double Platinum (1999). In 2000 the Supremes attempted a reunion tour, but Mary Wilson declined to join and the tour, surrounded by controversy and with low ticket sales, was canceled.

See also Music in the United States; Supremes, The


Brown, Geoff. Diana Ross. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1983.

George, Nelson. Where Did Our Love Go? The Rise and Fall of the Motown Sound. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1985.

Hirshey, Gerry. Nowhere to Run: The Story of Soul Music. New York: Penguin, 1984.

Ross, Diana. Upside Down: Wrong Turns, Right Turns, and the Road Ahead. New York: Regan Books, 2005.

karen bennett harmon (1996)
Updated by publisher 2005

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