The year is 1964.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 had just been passed by president Lyndon B. Johnson. Martin Luther King Jr. had just been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and Rosa Parks was coming up on the ten-year-anniversary of her revolutionary defiance.
And then there were the Supremes.
These are the artists who trail blazed their way in the music industry as young Black entrepreneurs, making room for young Black female artists today to shine their brightest.
In other words, the Supremes ran so that you can walk.
To no surprise, the Supremes were awarded with the Lifetime Achievement Award, presented at this year's Grammys back in February. In light of this event, we at Poppins Productions would like to celebrate this brilliant achievement by highlighting the hard work of these powerful women.
Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard met first. Wilson had just finished her act of pantomiming, or lip-syncing, to (Insert song and artist), when she heard Ballard sing the famous ‘Ave Maria’ for the first time. They must have recognized something miraculous in one another, something instant and unspoken, because they stayed together from that day forward. There were a few other members that came and went as time went on, but the one that stuck was the iconic Diana Ross, who joined the group as an original member.
Together, the three girls made a name for themselves in their hometown of Detroit, Michigan. They were called "the Primettes", for now, named after the male singing group "the Primes". It was under this name that they produced the album Tears of Sorrow (1960), which included tracks such as "Pretty Baby", and "Come See About Me". This album featured two different versions with two different voices: A LuPine Version, featuring Betty McGlown, and that of Motown Records, featuring Barbara Martin.
Tears of Sorrow (LuPine Version) Album Cover, featuring Betty McGlown, Mary Wilson, Diana Ross, and Florence Ballard (1960)
In 1962, the group released their first album with Motown Records: Meet the Supremes. Unfortunately, this album was not the big break the Supremes dreamed of. Around Motown, they were known as the "No Hit Supremes".
Meet the Supremes Album Cover (1962)
However, the break did come.
In that revolutionary year of 1964, the Supremes had their first hit, titled "Where Did Our Love Go". From then on, their career was a whirlwind.
In the next year, the Supremes would have not one, but three major hits: 'Back In My Arms Again', 'I Hear a Symphony', and the beloved classic, 'Stop! In the Name of Love'. The Supremes went on to become known as the most successful female group, with appearances in movies and tv shows.
They won the Rhythm and Blues Foundation Pioneer Award in 2003, and were even nominated for two Grammys prior to their win earlier this year. These nominations were for Best Contemporary (R&R) Performance - Group (Vocal Or Instrumental) for 'Stop! In the Name of Love' at the 8th Annual Grammy Awards, and Best Rhythm & Blues Recording for 'Baby Love' at the 7th.
Source: Poster advertising The Supremes at the Lincoln Center, New York, designed by Joseph Eula, 1965, USA. Museum no. E.323-1973. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
Throughout their career, the Supremes made a huge impact on both the music industry and American culture itself. Their stardom made Motown Records the most successful Black-owned enterprise in America.
The success of Motown incorporated Black rhythm and blues into the mix of existing pop culture, bringing Black culture into the homes of white Americans. This cross over the racial divide did something significant in their minds and opinions, making way for a more inclusive space for Black musicians.
The continuing relevancy of the Supremes in the pop industry changed the way Black musicianship is viewed in America. This ever-growing inclusivity eventually inspired some of the most well-known Black girl groups in America today, such as TLC and Destiny's Child. These groups spurred the evolutionary nature of Black music by incorporating R&B, which paved the way for Black female rappers to succeed later on.
Source: FremantleMedia, Ltd/REX/Shutterstock.com
Written by Emmalyne Karnes, @emmalyne_rose on Instagram.
Follow Poppins Productions LLC
And Learn More On Our Site