The Supremes’ rise to widespread fame was a process that took place in several steps. The American R&B group started out as the Primettes and went from being known as the “No-Hit Supremes” to becoming one of the most famous all-female bands of the 1960s and 1970s. They even gave famous artists like The Beatles and Elvis Presley a run for their money. Even though it took a while to get known at first, that didn’t last for too long. With the release of their first big hit, “Where Did My Love Go,” in 1964, the band quickly gained popularity and became one of the top brands of the 1960s.
Diana Ross, Mary Wilson, Florence Ballard, and Betty McGlown were the first members of the band, which was called the Primettes. However, soon after Berry Gordy, the president of Motown Records, signed the group, the members changed. From the beginning, it was clear that each member was treated the same and had the same place in the band. Ross, Wilson, and Ballard were all singers, but it was clear that Ross was given more importance in the group than the other two. In the end, this led to Ross leaving the band in 1970 to start a solo career and the group breaking up in 1977.
In addition, Gordy had romantic feelings for Ross, which explains why he put Ross before the other members. Gordy said, “I was head over heels in love with Diana Ross. She was my life’s biggest star.” So, Gordy did everything he could to make sure that Ross could also become a “big star” in the music business. They eventually started dating, which gave Ross a lot of power over the band and helped her become known as the lead singer of the group. Still, it’s hard to tell if she just wanted to boost her ego or if she was trying to get ahead in the entertainment business.
But her bandmate Mary Wilson knew right away because she said Ross was acting like a “spoiled brat.” In an interview later, Wilson said, “The higher we went, the more Diane wanted for herself… She started dating Berry, and whenever something made her unhappy, she let him know.” Wilson said that Ross would do “little tricks” to make herself stand out from the rest of the band. For example, she might wear a different costume for a show or stretch her arms out while performing to block the view of the other band members. In the big picture, these didn’t seem like big deals, but they were the things that started to drive a wedge between Ross and the other band members.
Ross wanted to start her own career, and her bandmates lost faith in her as a team player. “Diana never wanted to leave the girls, especially,” Gordy said. She was kind of shoved out. But that’s what happens when someone is in the spotlight and people tell the other singers, “She’s stealing the show.” Gordy’s clear favoritism toward Ross also played a part in the whole thing. “It might have been favoritism because Diana was my favorite,” he said. But she was good enough to make up for the fact that she was favored.
Ross had her own story to tell about her time in the band. In a later interview, she said it was sad and happy at the same time. In contrast to the Supremes’ very successful career, Ross said she was heartbroken by how her bandmates treated her. Even when they were performing on the same stage, they would try to avoid her or “talk about me behind my back when my back wasn’t even turned.”
Diana Ross went solo because there were problems within the band, she was having trouble with personal problems, and she needed to find a place where she could be herself and let her musical skills shine. She went on to have a successful career like no other.