Diana Ross

  • R&B singer born in 1944 in Detroit Michigan.
  • Her family and friends called her Diane – her name was mistakenly entered as “Diana” on her birth certificate. She aspired to be a fashion designer, taking classes in prep school in clothing design and modeling. At fifteen years old, she joined a female vocal group called the Primettes. In 1960, they won a talent contest, which got them an invitation to audition for Motown Records. Before doing so, Ross’ friend and former neighbor Smokey Robinson insisted that the Primettes audition first for him. Robinson agreed to bring the Primettes to Motown Records, but only if they allowed their guitarist to join his backing band, the Miracles. After auditioning for Motown, they were told to come back after they finished high school. Instead, they went to Motown headquarters almost every day, helping with backing vocals for recordings for other artists. By 1961, they were signed to Motown, changing their name to the Supremes.
  • Ross was a member of the Supremes from 1961 to 1970. They released 18 studio albums between 1962 and 1969, and they were international stars. In 1967, their name was officially changed to Diana Ross & the Supremes. With Ross as the leader, the Supremes had 11 singles top the Hot 100 chart. See my blog post from May 31, 2017 for more on the Supremes.
  • By 1968, Ross was performing as a solo artist for television specials, and by mid-1969 it was decided that Ross would leave the Supremes and would begin a solo career. Her final appearance with the group was in January 1970. In May that year, she released her debut solo album, the self-titled Diana Ross. She released ten studio albums during the 70s, two of which topped the R&B Albums chart. She had four #1 hits on the Hot 100 chart during this time – Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, Touch Me In the Morning, Theme From Mahogany (Do You Know Where You’re Going To) and Love Hangover. Love Hangover was her first song to feature her evolution into disco music
  • Ross began an acting career in 1971, and three of the soundtrack albums that she performed on charted. She took the role of Billie Holiday in the biopic Lady Sings the Blues, and the soundtrack album topped the Billboard 200 album chart. Her performance earned her an Oscar nomination for Best Actress. Ross had the lead role in the film Mahogany and the lead role in the film adaptation of the Broadway musical The Wiz. 
  • Her final album during her first run with Motown was in 1980. Diana was her most successful album – it was certified platinum, and it reached #2 on the Billboard 200 album chart. She reached #1 on the Hot 100 chart with the disco anthem Upside Down, and followed that with another disco classic, I’m Coming Out, which peaked at #5. Her final Motown single was a duet with Lionel Richie – Endless Love topped the chart, and when Billboard published their list in 2018 of the top songs of the first 60 years of the Hot 100, it was at #18.
  • In 1981, Ross signed with RCA Records – the contract was the most expensive in history at that time. She released six albums with RCA between 1981 and 1987, with one album – Why Do Fools Fall In Love – reaching platinum status. The title track to that album peaked at #7 on the Hot 100 and #2 on the Adult Contemporary chart. During the RCA years, two other singles reached the top 10 of the Hot 100 – Mirror Mirror and Missing You, which reached #2 and #1 respectively on the R&B chart also.
  • In 1988, Ross returned to Motown Records, and she received part ownership in the company as part of her compensation. Five albums were released between 1989 and 2006. Her days of hits were behind her – the single Working Overtime reached #3 on the R&B singles chart and Take Me Higher reached #1 on the Dance Club Songs chart, and other singles were less successful.
  • Ross reunited with the Supremes for a television special in 1983, and in 2000 there was a reunion tour, though Ross was the only original Supreme in the group. Another tour in 2002 began, though it ended when Ross checked herself into rehab.
  • Ross released her first album of original material in over 20 years in 2021. Thank You was recorded in her home studio during the COVID lockdown. Nine of the songs on the album were co-written by Ross. It was nominated for a Grammy award for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album – her first Grammy nomination since 1983.
  • While Ross has not received any Grammy awards for her records, she has received two Grammy Lifetime Achievement Awards – one as a Supreme, and one as a solo artist. In 1988, she was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Supremes. She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016. In 2017 she performed a medley of hits – I’m Coming Out, Take My Higher, Ease On Down the Road, Best Years of My Life and Ain’t No Mountain High Enough – on the American Music Awards. Here’s the clip – you would NEVER know that she was 73 years old here, she looks like she’s 40!

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