Diana Ross & The Supremes Sing “Someday We’ll Be Together”

diana_ross__the_supremes_-_somedayListen to this track by mighty Motown hit machine Diana Ross & The Supremes. It’s “Someday We’ll Be Together”, a smash hit single from 1969 and found on their LP Cream Of The Crop.

The song has the distinction of being the last number one single on the R&B charts of the 1960s, while also being the first number one single of the next decade, too. It was also the group’s swan song, with Diana Ross leaving for a solo career by 1970. This gave the song’s refrain a kind of weightiness that seemed to go beyond the story depicted in it.

The song had actually been recorded previously in 1961 by doo-wop group Johnny (Bristol) & Jacky (Beavers), the team who also wrote it. Bristol oversaw the Supremes recording too. You can hear him singing backup, although that session was meant to be a demo with Bristol’s interjections as vocal encouragement in order to get the right take. When Motown honcho Berry Gordy heard it, he liked Bristol’s backing that offset Ross’ lead voice. Ironically for a swan song of a massive pop group like the Supremes, or “Diana Ross & The Supremes” as they became known, Cindy Birdsong and Mary Wilson aren’t featured on the track. This was indicative of the state of the union of the group at the time. Besides that though, this song always struck me as a swan song of another kind; that of childhood itself. Read more

Diana Ross Sings ‘The Theme From Mahogany’

mahogany-coverHere’s a clip of Diana Ross’ “The Theme From Mahogany”, the title song from the 1976 film in which Ross stars as an ingénue in the fashion industry. The picture was directed by her svengali figure and Motown label boss, Berry Gordy.

This tune is very much of its time perhaps, much like the film in which it features. But, for whatever reason, I love it. It’s almost classical sounding to me, like a Bach fugue in places. And usually sumptuous orchestration is a red flag for this kind of song, unless the vocalist presents a contrasting texture of some kind. Ross doesn’t do this, which is a testament to how well arranged the tune is. It shouldn’t have worked, but it does. Well, it does for me, anyway.

I’ve said before that Diana Ross’ career owes a lot to the material upon which it was built. This tune, for instance, was co-written by former Brill Building songwriter, Gerry Goffin, for which he won an Oscar nomination. And her Motown oeuvre owed a huge debt to the superlative writing talents of Holland Dozier Holland. I’m not sure that her voice is terribly special, frankly. But, maybe her bland voice is her secret weapon in this way. For one, it doesn’t draw too much attention to itself, and makes way for the delivery of the material. Maybe this is why Ross was able to skip across genres so easily too.

Her late 70s-early 80s renaissance was largely down to her being able to etch out a niche for herself when disco came along. There again, she was bolstered by great producers and players, as well as great songs in “Love Hangover”, “I’m Coming Out”, and “Upside Down”. Her 1980 album Diana, produced by Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers of Chic, is the perfect example of Ross working with the best to get the best results.

Although saying that, there is the story of Ross demanding that her vocals be brought up in the mix, after hearing a version of the record as laid down by Edwards and Rodgers. I wonder how grand the original mix of the Diana album would have sounded, with a slinkier bass, a more playful rhythm guitar, and funkier drums. It might have caused heads to explode, or very least for disco and funk to remain more mainstream further into the decade. Who can say?