Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music


ROSS, Diana

Pop/soul vocalist, superstar: famous as lead singer of the Supremes (which see); became centrepiece late '60s when trio's name changed to Diana Ross and the Supremes; long-predicted solo move took place '70 for 33 Hot 100 hits in the USA through '85. First solo hit 'Reach Out And Touch' made USA top 20 and charted in UK; second 'Ain't No Mountain High Enough' (new arrangement of Tammi Terrell/Marvin Gaye hit of '67) was no. 1 USA/top ten UK; she had three top 40s USA '71, but 'I'm Still Waiting' (no. 63 USA) was her first UK no. 1. She had always been the favourite of Berry Gordy, who saw her as the ultimate Motown superstar; he obtained her first film role for her in Lady Sings The Blues '72: as a biopic of Billie Holiday it was deservedly panned but commercially successful, soundtrack LP no. 1 USA; Ross nom. for an Oscar. 'Touch Me In The Morning' was no. 1 USA '73, top ten UK; another project was duet LP with her male Motown equivalent, Marvin Gaye: they charted with two singles in USA, two different ones in UK. Second film Mahogany '75 not very well received: there is something sad about the necessity for Gordy to direct and Ross to star in a Joan Crawford type of vehicle, but it had a no. 1 USA/top five UK single in 'Theme From Mahogany (Do You Know Where You're Going)'. Diana Ross '76 incl. no. 1 'Love Hangover' (top ten UK), no. 5 LP USA also incl. the film theme. She played Dorothy character in The Wiz '78 (black remake of Wizard Of Oz, with pre-immortal Michael Jackson in the cast), unusually bad casting spoiling what could have been a good movie. LP Baby It's Me '77 was prod. by Richard Perry (also prod. of Carly Simon and Barbra Streisand); result disappointed some fans. She returned to Motown production for a less ambitious LP The Boss '79 (top 20 title single USA), then Diana '80, no. 2 LP incl. 'Upside Down' (no. 1 USA) and 'I'm Coming Out' (no. 5), 'My Old Piano' (top ten UK), still considered by many her best album, but there was much stress with prod. team of Nile Rogers and Bernard Edwards of Chic. She cut a huge hit single duet with Lionel Richie: 'Endless Love' was no. 1 for nine weeks in USA '81, but then left Motown for RCA (USA), Capitol (UK). Prod. her own Why Do Fools Fall In Love '81, no. 15 LP with two top ten singles USA; got involved in fitness syndrome '82 with 'Muscles' (top ten USA), 'Work That Body' (top ten UK); routine LP Ross '83 used outside producers; then she oversaw prod. of improved Swept Away '84, with guest stars Jeff Beck, Daryl Hall, Richie, Julio Iglesias, Rogers and Edwards, previous quarrels swept away. Eaten Alive '85 co-prod. and largely written by Bee Gee Barry Gibb: 'Missing You' was dedicated to Gaye; 'Chain Reaction' was a huge hit in UK, very much in Motown mould. Red Hot Rhythm Plus Blues '87 prod. by Tom Dowd. Other albums incl. Diana Ross Live At Caesar's Palace '74, two-disc An Evening With Diana Ross '77, live in LA theatre; Workin' Overtime '89 prod. by Rogers on her own label, licensed by Motown, as were The Force Behind The Power '91 (mostly prod. by Peter Asher), Live -- Stolen Moments (aka The Lady Sings Jazz And Blues) '93; Christmas In Vienna '93 was on Sony Classical with Placido Domingo and Jos‚ Carreras (pretty fast company for a girl from the Projects); Take Me Higher '95 was on Motown again (EMI in UK). Her work is uneven whenever she tries to step out of the style that made her famous, but the star quality that Gordy spotted 25 years ago is still there; compilations of the much- loved diva's recordings are too numerous to list.