Known as one of R&B’s original divas, Diana Ross is a famous singer and actress who was instrumental in shaping the “Motown sound” in the 1960s and partly responsible for helping to change a country’s attitude about many social issues. As lead singer of the famous group The Supremes and as a solo artist, Ross has amassed over 100 million record sales across the globe.
Ross was born Diana Ernestine Earle Ross on March 26, 1944 in Detroit, Michigan. During the era, young black teenagers used to form into singing groups and perform on corners, in schools, or anywhere else they could showcase their music. Ross formed a group with some of her friends, including Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard. Barbara Martin was eventually added.
The group, known as The Supremes, was signed to Motown Records in 1961. Barbara Martin left the group in 1962, and instead of replacing her, the trio of girls powered on without a fourth member. Berry Gordy felt the set up was better this way. He also noticed that Diana stood out among the girls, and in 1963, Ross became the group’s lead vocalist.
During the early 1960s, Motown was just getting started. A lot of the acts sounded the same, and there was nothing about R&B that would propel it past rock and roll performers of the time including Elvis Presley, especially on southern radio. Because of Ross’ unique vocal talents, however, Gordy saw an opportunity to cross over.
The Supremes hit it big in 1963 with their number-one hit, Where Did Our Love Go. They were an instant smash on pop radio up north, and in the next three years, the trio of talented ladies scored ten number-one singles in the US.
Gordy again decided to tweak the formula, renaming the group Diana Ross & The Supremes. The group hit it big with a couple of songs in the next two years, and they were the second-most popular group in the world behind The Beatles.
Ross was pushed into a solo career in 1969. She spent half a year recording material for her solo album, and her first solo album, the self-titled Diana Ross, was released on Motown in 1970. She earned two number-one songs from the album, including Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, which even earned a Grammy nomination.
Ross released her second solo album in 1971 and followed Motown to Hollywood as Berry Gordy attempted to make the move to mainstream motion pictures. Diana was the company’s star, and she played jazz legend Billie Holiday in 1972’s Lady Sings the Blues. Ross blew the critics away with her performance.
Ross returned to music the following year and would release the albums Touch Me in the Morning and Diana & Marvin (Gaye). She toured on the massive success of her albums for the next fear years but would show up on the big-screen again in 1975 with a lead role in the film Mahogany.
Diana is still active to date. Throughout her career, she has starred in dozens of big movies and has been recorded on hundreds of records. She was an American icon before the 1970s were through and stands strong today as one of the original divas.