Diana Ernestine Earle Ross (born March 26, 1944) is an American singer and actress. During the 1960s, she helped shape the Motown sound as lead singer of The Supremes, before leaving the group for a solo career on January 14, 1970. Since the beginning of her career with The Supremes and as a solo artist, Ross has sold more than 100 million records.
During the 1970s and through the mid-1980s, Ross was among the most successful female artists, crossing over into film, television and Broadway. She received a Best Actress Academy Award nomination for her 1972 role as Billie Holiday in Lady Sings the Blues, for which she won a Golden Globe award. She won awards at the American Music Awards, garnered twelve Grammy Award nominations, and won a Tony Award for her one-woman show, An Evening with Diana Ross, in 1977.
In 1976, Billboard magazine named her the "Female Entertainer of the Century." In 1993, the Guinness Book of World Records declared Diana Ross the most successful female music artist in history with a total of 18 American number-one singles: 12 as lead singer of The Supremes and six as a soloist. Ross was the first female solo artist to score six number-ones. This feat puts her in a tie for fifth place among solo female artists with the most number-ones on the Hot 100. She is also one of the few recording artists to have two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame—one as a solo artist and the other as a member of The Supremes. In December 2007, she received a John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Honors Award.
Including her work with The Supremes, Ross has released 67 albums.
Early life and careerDiana Ross, the daughter of a former United States Army soldier from Bluefield, West Virginia and a schoolteacher from Bessemer, Alabama, was born at Hutzel Women's Hospital in Detroit, Michigan. Although her given name was "Diana", Ross went by "Diane" at home and school, and continued to use the name professionally until she was twenty-one. After living at 635 Belmont Avenue in Detroit's North End for several years, Ross's family settled on St. Antoinne Street in the Brewster-Douglass housing projects on her fourteenth birthday in 1958. Ross aspired to be a fashion designer, and studied design and seamstress skills while attending Cass Technical High School, a four-year college preparatory magnet school, in Downtown Detroit. She was a majorette and a member of the swim team. She was voted Best-Dressed Girl in her senior year. She graduated in January, 1962, one full semester earlier than her classmates.
While in high school, Ross studied cosmetology in the evenings, attended modeling classes on the weekends, and was employed at Detroit's Hudson's department store, where she was the first African-American employee "allowed outside of the kitchen", due to her bearing and fashion sense. She styled hair for many of her neighbors for extra income, in order to pay for cosmetology classes.
In 1959, Ross was brought to the attention of Milton Jenkins, the manager of the local doo-wop group The Primes, by Mary Wilson. Primes member Paul Williams convinced Jenkins to enlist Ross in the sister group The Primettes, which included Wilson, Florence Ballard and Betty McGlown. Ross, Wilson and Ballard each sang lead during live performances and, in 1960, signed with Lu Pine Records where the label issued the Ross-led single "Tears of Sorrow" backed with the Wilson-led "Pretty Baby".
The Supremes (1959–1970)
In 1961, having already replaced McGlown with Barbara Martin, the quartet signed with Motown Records under their new moniker, The Supremes, chosen by Florence Ballard, the only Primette in the building at the time(Ross & Wilson had gone to purchase fabrics for the group's stage ensembles, to be sewn by Ross.). Reportedly, Ballard chose the name "Supremes" because it was the only name which didn't end with "ette". It should be noted that in this period of the group's development, Ross served as the group's costume designer, seamstress, hair dresser & make-up artist, giving the group the look, as well as the sound, that set it apart from Motown's other female groups. Ross would purchase copies of Vogue & Harper's Bazaar magazines, adapt the pictured styles to the group's needs, purchase the required fabrics, usually with Wilson in tow, & recreate the high-fashion styles. Ross also taught the group mates everything she'd learned in her modeling classes, giving all of the members a polished appearance and carriage before they began to take classes at Motown's Artist Development.
Following Martin's exit in 1962, the group remained a trio. In 1963, Ross became the group's lead singer, as Berry Gordy felt the group could "cross over" to the pop charts with Ross' unique vocal quality, and the Ross-led "When The Lovelight Shines Though His Eyes" became the group's first Billboard Top 20 Pop single. The Supremes hit number one with "Where Did Our Love Go", a song rejected by The Marvelettes, but recorded in Marvelettes' lead singer Gladys Horton's lower key (Previously, Ross has been recorded in very high keys, which made her voice sound nasal & piercing.)and the group achieved unprecedented success: between August 1964 and May 1967, Ross, Wilson and Ballard sang on ten number-one hit singles, all of which also made the United Kingdom Top 40.
The Supremes' success only intensified the jealousies felt by many other Motown acts who saw the group's success as the result of favoritism of Ross by Gordy, when, in fact, Gordy simply supported the hardest-working performers on his label. Ross was reputed to be Artist Development's best student. She stayed later in the studio than others to learn her performance craft, sacrificing personal time that others on the label enjoyed. Ross was, other than, perhaps, Marvin Gaye, the only Motown artist happy to perform Broadway standards and other "middle of the road" material, while many of the other artists complained, fearing they'd be seen as "selling out" or "less black" for performing such material.
Florence Ballard, in particular, grew frustrated by Ross' continued importance within the group. In anger, Ballard began missing interviews, rehearsals, recordings and performances(or appearing inebriated onstage), drinking excessively & rapidly gaining weight, costing thousands of dollars for alterations of their expensive stage wardrobes. Reportedly, Ballard physically assaulted Ross following a rehearsal of their performance of "The Sound Of Music"'s "My Favorite Things", which they'd recorded on their then-recently released Christmas album, after Ross allegedly, and from all accounts, accidentally, crushed one of Ballard's heavy chandelier earrings with her shoe. Ross' earrings were also known to fall off, most famously during the group's performance of "You Can't Hurry Love" on the Ed Sullivan show. Such unstable behavior forced Gordy to consider replacing Ballard, which he did in mid-1967, following a Las Vegas performance in which Ballard, allegedly, exposed her belly as far as she could from underneath her tuxedo costume during the group's stage banter, an act which enraged Gordy, who saw this behavior as "the final straw" (Ballard had been allowed to return to the group on a trial basis, following earlier disruptions.).
Following Florence Ballard's departure from the group in July 1967, Gordy chose Cindy Birdsong, a member of Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles, as her replacement. Shortly thereafter, he changed the group's name to Diana Ross & the Supremes to charge higher performance fees from venues, which pay more for a lead act & a group, versus just a group. Other Motown acts' names were changed for similar reasons, including Smokey Robinson & The Miracles (formerly The Miracles) and Martha Reeves & The Vandellas (formerly The Vels, Martha and the Vandellas).
Recording a total of 12 number-one singles, The Supremes became the most successful American vocal group of the 1960s and after The Beatles, the second most successful group worldwide.
Leaving The SupremesMotown initially conceived of a solo career for Diana Ross in 1966, but did not act on it until 1968. Television specials such as TCB (1968) and G.I.T. on Broadway (1969) were designed to spotlight her as a star in her own right, and much of the later Ross-led Supremes material was recorded by Ross with session singers The Andantes, not Wilson and Birdsong, on backing vocals.
For Ross, the animosity she felt from her group mates became unbearable. Her anxiety resulted in a form of anorexia. Ross would become too nervous to eat, despite Gordy's standing room service orders for massive amounts of food to be delivered to Ross' hotel rooms. Her weight began to drop, leaving her with "bone-thin" appearance. Her skin would break into cold sweats, with Gordy sometimes having to rub down her entire body with rubbing alcohol in order to keep her body from going into shock. When onstage, Ross would carry her shoulders very high, a publicly visible physical manifestation of her anxiety.
By the summer of 1969, Ross began her first solo recordings. In November of the same year, three years after it was first rumored, Billboard magazine confirmed Ross's departure from the group to begin her solo career. That same year, Ross introduced Motown's newest act, The Jackson 5, to national audiences on the Hollywood Palace television variety program.
Ross recorded her initial solo sessions with a number of producers, including Bones Howe and Johnny Bristol. Her first track with Bristol, "Someday We'll Be Together", was tagged as a potential solo single, but, it instead was issued as the final Diana Ross & the Supremes release. "Someday We'll Be Together" was the 12th and the final number-one hit for the Supremes and the last American number-one hit of the 1960s. Ross made her final appearance with the Supremes at the Frontier Hotel in Las Vegas on January 14, 1970.
Early solo careerNickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson, the creative force behind Marvin Gaye's and Tammi Terrell's hit duets and Diana Ross & the Supremes' "Some Things You Never Get Used To". Ashford and Simpson helmed most of Ross's first album, Diana Ross, and continued to write and produce for her for the next decade.
In May 1970, Diana Ross was released on Motown. The first single, the gospel-influenced waltz, "Reach Out and Touch (Somebody's Hand)", peaked at number 20 on the Billboard Hot 100. The album's second single, a fully rearranged cover of Gaye's and Terrell's 1967 hit, and another Ashford and Simpson composition, "Ain't No Mountain High Enough", was an international hit, and gave Ross her first #1 pop single and gold record award as a solo artist. "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" received a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female.
In 1971, Motown released Ross's second album Everything Is Everything, which produced Ross's first UK number-one solo single, "I'm Still Waiting". Several months later, Ross released Surrender, which included the top-20 pop hit, "Remember Me". That year, she hosted her first solo television special, Diana!, featuring guest appearances by The Jackson 5, Bill Cosby and Danny Thomas.
By then, Motown Records had relocated to Hollywood. Berry Gordy had decided it was time the company ventured again into new territory, focusing much of his attention on developing a motion picture corporation, with Diana Ross as its first star.
Lady Sings The BluesIn late 1971, Motown announced that Diana Ross was going to portray jazz icon Billie Holiday in a Motown-produced film loosely based on Holiday's autobiography Lady Sings the Blues (1956) written by Holiday and William Dufty. Immediately, critics ridiculed Ross's casting in the role. Ross and Holiday were considered to be "miles apart" in vocal styling and appearance. Undaunted, Ross immersed herself in Holiday's music and life story. Ross actually knew little about Holiday and was not a big fan of jazz in general. Instead of imitating Holiday's voice, Ross focused on Holiday's vocal phrasing.
Opening in October 1972, Lady Sings the Blues was a phenomenal success, and Ross's performance drew universally favorable reviews. The movie co-starred Billy Dee Williams as Holiday's lover, Louis McKay. The cast also included comedian Richard Pryor as the "Piano Man". In 1973, Ross was nominated for both a Golden Globe Award and an Academy Award for "Best Actress". Ross along with fellow nominee that year Cicely Tyson, were the second African American actresses to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress after Dorothy Dandridge. Ross won the Golden Globe for Best Newcomer, but lost the Best Actress Oscar to her friend Liza Minnelli for her role in Cabaret. The soundtrack album for Lady Sings the Blues reached number one on the Billboard 200 for two weeks and shipped 300,000 copies during its first eight days of release. After several of the soundtrack's recording sessions, many of the musicians (some of whom had played with Billie Holiday) spontaneously erupted into applause, in praise of Ross's performances. The double-pocket custom label record is one of Ross's best-selling albums of all time, with total sales to date of nearly 2 million US units.
Blue, which was shelved by Motown Records, who wanted Ross to return to pop music. The following year, Ross responded with Touch Me in the Morning. The title track became Ross's second US number-one hit. Later in 1973, Ross and label mate Marvin Gaye released their successful duets album, Diana & Marvin, which included the top-twenty US hit, "My Mistake (Was to Love You)" and the top-five UK hit cover of The Stylistics' "You Are Everything". Tensions arose between the famed artists when a pregnant Ross refused to record in the same studio as Gaye, who refused to stop smoking marijuana in the studio. They completed the album in separate studios, with their voices melded on the album's final engineered mix.
In 1975, Ross again co-starred with Billy Dee Williams in the Motown film Mahogany. The story of an aspiring fashion designer who becomes a runway model and the toast of the industry, Mahogany was a troubled production from its inception. The film's original director, Tony Richardson, was fired during production(following growing tensions with Ross & Williams, who refused to have his character swear in front of women and give a toast "to all of the Sambos in the world") and Berry Gordy assumed the director's chair himself. In addition, Gordy and Ross clashed during filming, with Ross leaving the production before shooting was completed, forcing Gordy to use secretary Edna Anderson as a body double for Ross. While a box office success, the film was not well received by the critics: Time magazine's review of the film chastised Gordy for "squandering one of America's most natural resources: Diana Ross".
Ross hit the top spot on the pop charts twice in 1976 with "Theme From Mahogany (Do You Know Where You're Going To)", and the disco single "Love Hangover". A third single release, "I Thought It Took A Little Time", also was a sizable hit from that album. The success of these singles made her 1976 album, Diana Ross, her fourth LP to reach the Top 10. In 1977, her one-woman show, "An Evening With Diana Ross", earned her a special Tony Award for its performances at Broadway's Palace Theater. The Los Angeles performances were recorded at the Ahmanson Theater and released as a live album of the same name. A reimagined version of the show became a television special on NBC, including a dramatic scene in which Ross portrayed Josephine Baker, Ethel Waters and Bessie Smith, in special make-up, created by Stan Winston, to complete the illusions.
That same year, Motown acquired the film rights to the Broadway play The Wiz, an African-American reinterpretation of L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Although teenage Stephanie Mills, a veteran of the play, was originally cast as Dorothy, Ross convinced Universal Pictures producer Rob Cohen to have Ross cast as Dorothy. As a result, the eleven-year-old protagonist of the story became a shy twenty-four year old schoolteacher from Harlem, New York. Among Ross's costars in the film were Lena Horne, Michael Jackson, Richard Pryor, Nipsey Russell and Ted Ross. Upon its October 1978 release, the film adaptation of The Wiz, a $24 million production, earned $13.6 million at the box office. Though pre-release television broadcast rights had been sold to CBS for over $10 million, the film produced a net loss of $10.4 million for Motown and Universal. At the time, it was the most expensive film musical ever made. The film's failure ended Ross' short career on the big screen and contributed to the Hollywood studios' reluctance to produce the all-black film projects which had become popular during the blaxploitation era of the early-to-mid 1970s for several years. The Wiz was Ross' final film for Motown. The accompanying Quincy Jones-produced soundtrack album sold over 850,000 copies in its initial release.
The Boss, which became Ross's first recognized gold-certified album (Motown sales records before 1979 were not audited by the RIAA, and therefore none of Motown's pre-1979 releases was awarded certification). That album became Diana Ross's best-selling album since her disco success four years earlier, with sales of more than 850,000, and set the stage for her biggest-selling Motown album of all time. It was no mistake that the writing team of Ashford and Simpson was brought in, as they were a top-selling disco act themselves during this period, having had three gold-selling albums in a row to their credit. Two disco hits, "The Boss" and "No One Gets The Prize", and the lesser-known "It's My House", made the 1979 release a quick gold seller. In 1980, Ross released her first RIAA platinum-certified disc, "diana", produced by Chic's front men Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards. The album included two of Ross's most successful solo hits, her fifth number-one solo single, "Upside Down", and the Top-5 single "I'm Coming Out". diana was the singer's most successful studio album to date, peaking at number two on the Billboard Album Chart chart for three weeks and selling almost six million copies in the United States with another three million sales globally.
Ross scored a Top 10 hit in late 1980 with the theme song to the 1980 film It's My Turn. The following year, she collaborated with former Commodores singer-songwriter Lionel Richie on the theme song for the film Endless Love. The Academy Award-nominated "Endless Love" single became her final hit on Motown Records, and the Number One Record of the year. Feeling that Motown, and in particular Gordy, were keeping her from freely expressing herself and not according her financial parity, Ross left Motown, signing a $20 million contract with RCA Records in the US and Canada and Capitol/EMI elsewhere, ending her twenty-year tenure with the label. At the time, the Ross-RCA deal was the most money ever paid to a recording artist. When the duet with Lionel Richie "Endless Love" hit number one in 1981, Ross became the first female artist in music history to have six singles at number one on the Billboard Hot 100. That single, the last of her Motown career up to that time, was her first (and to date, only) platinum single, selling in excess of two million copies.
1980s and 1990sRCA Records debut, Why Do Fools Fall in Love, was issued in October 1981. The album yielded three Top 10 hits including the title track "Why Do Fools Fall in Love", a remake of the 1956 Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers classic of the same name, and the single "Mirror Mirror". A third single, "Work That Body", hit the Top Ten in the UK.
In 1983, Ross reunited with former Supremes Mary Wilson and Cindy Birdsong for the television special Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever. The three performed their 1969 number-one hit "Someday We'll Be Together", although alleged onstage altercations between Ross and Wilson became an issue during and after the taping of the special. A four-song Supremes set was planned but Ross, suffering from influenza, declined to rehearse with "The Girls" and stated that they would have to be happy just doing "Someday We'll Be Together". Before the special was taped later that evening, Wilson allegedly planned with Birdsong to take a step forward every time Ross did the same. This appeared to frustrate Ross, causing her to allegedly push Wilson's shoulder. Later, Wilson was not aware of the script set by producer Suzanne DePasse, in which Ross was to introduce Berry Gordy. Wilson took it upon herself to do so, at which point Ross pushed down Wilson's hand-held microphone, stating "It's been taken care of." Ross, then, introduced Gordy.These incidents were excised from the final edit of the taped special, but still made their way into the news media; People magazine reported that "Ross [did] some elbowing to get Wilson out of the spotlight."
On July 21, 1983, Ross held a concert in Central Park, the proceeds of which were to go towards building a playground in the singer's name. Fifteen minutes into the concert, which was being filmed for Showtime cable television and televised worldwide, a torrential downpour began. As she urged the crowd of over 800,000 to safely exit the venue, Ross announced that she would continue the performance the next day. Her actions drew praise from the mainstream press. That next day, over 500,000 people came back for one of the largest free concerts in the park's history. The second concert she famously performs an iconic song by Michael Jackson "Beat It" before going into a Michael-penned "Muscles". However, the second show generated controversy. One man is even seen in the crowd screaming the B word towards the camera which was seen on live tv. During and after the concert, groups of young men began a rampage through Central Park, assaulting and robbing more than one hundred people. Some of the victims of the attacks subsequently filed lawsuits against New York City for failing to provide adequate security at the concert. The suits were eventually settled at a cost of millions of dollars. The funds for the playground were to be derived from sales of different items at the concert; however, all profits earned from the first concert were spent on the second. When the mainstream media discovered the exorbitant costs of the two concerts, Diana Ross faced criticism and poor publicity. Although representatives of Diana Ross originally refused to pay anything for the proposed playground, Ross later paid the US$250,000.00 required to build the park. The Diana Ross Playground was finally built three years later.
Other hit singles recorded by Ross for RCA included the Top 10 Grammy-nominated "Muscles" (1982), "So Close" (1983), "Pieces of Ice" (1983), "All of You" (1984), the #1 dance hit "Swept Away" (1984), the #1 R&B Marvin Gaye tribute "Missing You" (1985), "Eaten Alive" (1985) and the UK #1 single, "Chain Reaction", (1986). Ross also sang part of the lead vocal on the 1985 worldwide #1 "We Are The World".
(Technically speaking, "We Are The World", along with her 12 Supremes #1's and 6 solo #1's, gives Diana a total of 19 appearances on a #1 single).
Albums during this period included the gold-certified release, All the Great Hits, Silk Electric (also Gold-certified), Diana Ross Anthology and Swept Away which sold over 900,000 copies in the US by the time it was taken out of print. Ross hosted The American Music Awards in 1986 and 1987, delighting the fashion press by changing evening gowns during each commercial break. However, while Ross continued to have success overseas, she began to struggle with record sales in the US as the 1980s drew to a close. The 1987 album Red Hot Rhythm & Blues sold fewer than 300,000 copies in the United States. "If We Hold On Together", the theme to the Don Bluth animated film "The Land Before Time" in 1988 was a #1 single in Japan, later making the UK Top 20 in 1992. In 1989, after leaving RCA, Diana Ross returned to Motown, where she was now both a part-owner and a recording artist.
In 1989, Diana Ross released her first Motown album in eight years, the Nile Rodgers-produced Workin' Overtime. Despite a #3 R&B hit with the title track, the album failed to find a pop audience in America - selling only slightly over 100,000 copies. Subsequent follow-up albums such as 1991's The Force Behind the Power, 1995's Take Me Higher and 1999's Every Day is a New Day produced similar disappointing results in the US. Her last major R&B hit single was "No Matter What You Do", a duet with Al B. Sure!, which peaked at #4 in early 1991. She continued having minor R&B chart entries throughout the 1990s with only the title track of her album Take Me Higher reaching #1 on the Billboard dance chart and making the 'Bubbling Under The Hot 100' chart at #114.
When You Tell Me That You Love Me" (1991), "One Shining Moment" (1992), and "Not Over You Yet" (1999). Additionally, "Force Behind The Power", "Heart (Don't Change My Mind)" (1992), "Your Love" (1994), "The Best Years of My Life" (1994), "Take Me Higher" (1995), "Gone" (1995), "I Will Survive" (1996) and "In the Ones You Love" (1996) all reached either the UK Top 20 or Top 40, proving that she was still a viable recording artist internationally. Ross headlined the 1991 UK Royal Variety Performance and was a halftime performer at Super Bowl XXX in 1996. She also performed in London, England in 1995, delivering an outstanding set at Wembley Stadium as the pre-game attraction in the opening game of the Rugby League world cup between Great Britain and Australia. Having announced to the capacity crowd that "I love the game of Rugby League", Ross is known to be a major fan of the game, with a particular fondness for the Yorkshire team Batley. In 1999, she was named the most successful female singer in the history of the United Kingdom charts, based upon a tally of her career hits. Fellow Michigan singer Madonna would eventually succeed Ross as the most successful female artist in the UK.
In 1994, Ross performed at the opening ceremony of the FIFA World Cup, hosted in the USA. Her performance has become a running joke in football circles due to her obvious miming and for missing the goal from close range.
At age 49, Diana Ross returned to acting in the ABC telefilm, Out of Darkness (1994), in which she played a woman suffering from schizophrenia. Ross drew critical acclaim for her acting and scored her third Golden Globe nomination. Out of Darkness was the former Supreme's first movie since The Wiz flopped 16 years prior. Other films were in the planning stage, but only one actually materialized. In 1999, Ross co-starred with young R&B singer Brandy for the ABC television movie Double Platinum playing a singer who neglected her daughter while concentrating on her career.
1999–2003Diana Ross was a presenter at the 1999 MTV Video Music Awards, held that September. She shocked television viewers when she touched rapper Lil' Kim's exposed, pasty-covered breast, amazed at the young rapper's brashness. A month after the Lil Kim incident, authorities at London's Heathrow Airport detained Ross for "assaulting" a female security guard. The singer claimed that she had felt "violated as a woman" by the full-body search to which she was subjected. In retaliation, she was alleged to have touched the female airport security guard in a similar manner. The singer was detained but later released
Return to Love TourIn 1999, Diana Ross released her final album on Motown Records, "Every Day Is a New Day". Scott Sanders, a close friend of Ross', suggested adding an entire Supremes segment, in which all seven living Supremes would perform, to her concert tour for the then-new album. Diana agreed & took the idea to Arthur Fogel, head of concert promotions for TNA/SFX (now Live Nation Entertainment), who liked the idea. Fogel appointed Ross as co-producer of the event, as she has produced all of her tours since leaving Motown in 1981. All of the former Supremes were contacted by Ross, who then left all negotiations to be between the former Supremes, their agents & TNA/SFX. According to TNA staff (included in Tom Adrahtas' Ross biography, A Lifetime To Get Here: Diana Ross: American Dreamgirl), Mary Wilson's initial question regarded Ross' salary. Wilson was told by the staff member that Ross, as co-producer, received $500,000 USD per night for the lavish production's expenses, including an additional $500,000 for the tour's initial production expenses (set creation, orchestra contraction, costume manufacture, hiring of dancers, singers, crew, etc.) When the costs exceeded TNA/SFX's initial investment, Ross funded the difference. Wilson, however, told the press that TNA/SFX was paying Ross $500,000 per night, for a total of $15,000,000. Despite being told by Fogel that this was not the case, Wilson continued to complain publicly.
Concert tour fees are determined by an artist's most recent earnings. Reportedly, Mary Wilson earns approximately $20,000-$25,000 per performance. For the tour's 30 shows, TNA/SFX wanted to offer Wilson $750,000. Ross, however, convinced the promoter to raise their offer to $1,000,000. The same amount was offered to Cindy Birdsong, who, as a California minister, had not performed on tour in some time. Wilson balked at the offer, demanding financial parity with Ross, refusing to acknowledge concert tour fee rates. Wilson convinced Birdsong to allow Wilson to negotiate on Birdsong's behalf. Ross convinced TNA/SFX to raise Wilson's offer to $2,000,000. Wilson continued to complain to the press. Finally, Ross took $2,000,000 from her personal finances, offering it to Wilson, for a total of $4,000,000. All of the former Supremes' performance fees were "guaranteed", meaning regardless of how many performances actually took place, each former Supreme, excluding Diana Ross, would receive the total amount offered in her contract, while Ross' fees, a percentage of the profits less expenses, which she shared with TNA/SFX, depended solely upon the success of the tour. Ross added the fee guarantee to each lady's contract to ensure they would receive full payment for their participation.
Wilson accused Ross of being offered $500,000 per performance. In 2000, Ross earned a reported $475,000 per performance, during a multi-night engagement at a venue. If, however, Ross was engaged for a "one-night-only" performance, her fee nearly doubled to a reported $725,000. Many, if not all, of the tour's performances were "one-night-only" engagements, meaning that even if Wilson's alleged fees for Ross were correct, Ross would have taken a salary decrease of nearly $250,000 per performance in order to perform on the tour, versus the amount she would have earned as a solo artist.
Wilson's final offer of $4,000,000 came with a deadline of early 2000 (in order to begin production of the sets, costume fitting, hiring of staff, etc., and for the tour to begin on time). Despite numerous phone calls from Ross, Fogel & others, Wilson refused to respond to the offer. The deadline passed. Wilson's offer was rescinded, as was Birdsong's, as Wilson negotiated for Birdsong. At this time, TNA/SFX rescinded the other former Supremes' offers as well, deciding that if neither Wilson nor Birdsong were going to perform, there would be no reason to continue with other Supremes, with whom the general public was less familiar. Questioning whether to continue the tour at all, Ross contacted former mentor Berry Gordy for advice. Reportedly, he told her to continue "if it's something she'd have fun doing". She decided to continue. TNA/SFX approached former 1970's Supremes Lynda Lawrence & Scherrie Payne, both of whom agreed immediately.
To get the public comfortable with the new grouping, Ross, Lawrence & Payne appeared & performed together on several American television programs, including "Oprah", "The Today Show", "The View" and VH1's "Divas Live 2000:A Tribute To Diana Ross". The tour commenced on April 14, 200 at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania's Spectrum Arena to rave reviews. The Philadelphia Inquirer called the concert "A smashing success". The show was sold-out, as was the tour's final performance at New York City's Madison Square Garden.
"Fans Love Diana Ross & These Supremes"-USA Today
"Supremes? No. Sublime? Yes."-Detroit Free Press
"Ross In Supreme Form On 'Return' Tour"-Billboard
Despite positive reviews, the Return to Love tour was canceled after nine dates because of slow ticket sales, due to high ticket prices, some of which were nearly double the price of solo Diana Ross tickets.
In December 2002, Ross was arrested in Tucson, Arizona for drunk driving. She pleaded "no contest", and later served a two-day jail sentence near her home in Greenwich, Connecticut. Following the arrest and jail sentence, Ross stayed out of the American public eye during much of the following year. She performed a well-received set at Britain's Prince Charles' Prince's Trust concert, held in London's Hyde Park, in 2002, but would not return to touring again until 2004.
In January, 2005, M.A.C. Cosmetics named Diana Ross its Beauty Icon for 2005. The "Beauty Icon" limited edition make-up collections feature legendary female icons, celebrated for their beauty & style. Ross' collection focused on the pink and bronze/coral colour families and lustre-filled finishes. In addition to the essential colour collection for the eyes, lips and face, M.A.C created two shimmering shades of a special edition Beauty Powder in a one-of-a-kind pink-chromed compact, accompanied by an array of short, pink-handled, pink-bristled brushes. The stunning visual for the collection was shot by photographer Michael Thompson in New York, with make-up by Val Garland and styling by Edward Eniful. Subsequent Beauty Icons have included actress Raquel Welch, singer and actress Liza Minnelli and French actress, Catherine Deneuve.
In June 2006, Motown released the shelved Blue album, which peaked at number 2 on Billboard's Jazz Albums chart. Ross' new studio album, I Love You, was released worldwide on October 2, 2006 and January 16, 2007, in North America, on the Manhattan Records/EMI label. The new album earned the coveted Hot Shot Debut by Billboard magazine when it debuted at #32 on Billboard's Hot100 pop albums chart and #16 on its R&B chart, making it Ross's first top-forty US pop album since 1984's Swept Away. Since its release in 2007, EMI Inside reports that I Love You has sold more than 622,000 copies worldwide.
American Idol as a mentor to the contestantsRoss's United States "I Love You" tour garnered positive reviews, as did her European tour of the same year.
At the 2007 BET Awards, Ross was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award by singer Alicia Keys and her five children. Stevie Wonder, Erykah Badu and Chaka Khan performed musical tributes to Ross, covering several of her most popular recordings. During her acceptance speech, Ross lambasted the declining level of professional standards among the younger generation's musicians, as well as their overabundant use of vulgarity and profanity to garner press attention and record sales. Later that year, the prestigious Kennedy Center Honors committee, which recognizes career excellence, cultural influence and contributions to American culture, named Diana Ross as one of its honorees. Past honoree and fellow Motown alumni Smokey Robinson and actor Terrence Howard spoke on her behalf at the official ceremony that December, and singers Ciara, Vanessa L. Williams, Yolanda Adams and American Idol winner Jordin Sparks performed musical tributes.
In February 2008, Ross was guest speaker at the Houston-based Brilliant Lecture series at The Hobby Center, Houston. The lectures are designed to present prolific and influential characters to speak about their life and inspirations. During her lecture Ross stated that it is "unlikely" that she would undertake any further movie projects.
In May 2008, Ross headlined at New York's Radio City Music Hall's 'Divas with Heart' concert event, which also featured fellow performers Gladys Knight, Chaka Khan and Patti LaBelle. The following month she was a headliner at the City Stages music festival in Birmingham, AL, next to The Flaming Lips. The New York Times said about the duo, "the most incongruous headliners at an outdoor urban concert series, with the once-in-a-lifetime-at-most combination of Diana Ross and the Flaming Lips. Something for everyone, surely." She performed at two major events in the UK in July 2008: the famous Liverpool Pops Festival and the National Trust Summer Festival at Petworth House, West Sussex.
Ross's 1970 album Everything Is Everything was released in the United States for the first time on CD on April 18, 2008, as an expanded edition with bonus tracks and alternate versions of the songs. On December 9, 2008, the expanded edition of her third solo album, Surrender, was released.
In early December 2008, Motown announced the result of an international poll of the greatest Motown recordings. The winner, worldwide, was Marvin Gaye's "I Heard it Through the Grapevine" while Ross's version of "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" was No. 2. This track was the top choice by British voters. The poll determined the track listing for a Motown fiftieth anniversary album released in December. A significant number of Supremes and Diana Ross songs finished in the top 50 of the poll, requiring the elimination of some of these songs from the final track listing to prevent an unbalanced track selection.
On October 16–17, 2009, Diana Ross headlined the annual Dutch concert event, "Symphonica in Rosso", in the 34,000-seat Gelredome Stadium, in Arnhem. She was accompanied by a 40-piece orchestra. Each of the two concerts were sold-out.
In January 2010, Motown released the extended version of the classic Touch Me In the Morning album, including tracks from the previously unreleased For The Baby album.
In January 2010, Ross was reportedly teaming up with shoe designer Steve Madden to launch a range of designer sneakers to be available through the Foot Locker retail company. Madden later explained that this story was not true; he mentioned Ross in an interview noting her as a style icon and the interviewer misinterpreted his answer.
Ross performed a cross-country tour in the summer of 2010. The "More Today Than Yesterday: The Greatest Hits" tour featured an all-new set list, stage design, and costumes galore, and was dedicated to her friend Michael Jackson who died in June 2009. The tour, which commenced on May 15, 2010, in Boston, Massachusetts, earned Ross excellent reviews in every city in which she performed, and concluded in Saratoga, California. An extended American leg of the tour began in September, 2010, and is scheduled to continue until March 2011, in Durham, North Carolina. It is rumored that Ross will mount a European leg of the tour.
Personal lifeDiana was the second of six children born to a Baptist family by Fred Ross (July 4, 1920 – November 21, 2007) and Ernestine Ross (January 27, 1916 – October 9, 1984) in Detroit's Brewster-Douglass Housing Projects. During Diana's later teenage years, her parents separated, divorcing in 1973. Diana's mother later married John Jordan in 1977. Fred Ross never remarried. Her older sister, Barbara, became a doctor. In 1993, Dr. Ross-Lee was appointed Dean of the Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine, becoming the first African-American woman to administer a medical school in the United States. Younger sister, Rita, became a teacher. Brothers Arthur and Chico Ross followed their sister into the recording industry and entertainment business, respectively.
Diana Ross attended Detroit's Cass Technical High School, graduating in January, 1962, at the age of seventeen, one semester before the rest of her classmates.
She dated Gene Simmons of Kiss for 5 years.
Ross is the mother of five children. She married music business manager Robert Ellis Silberstein in January, 1971. Daughter Rhonda Suzanne Silberstein was born on August 13, 1971, Rhonda's biological father is Berry Gordy. She is now married; her married name is Rhonda Ross Kendrick. Ross and Silberstein had two daughters: Tracee Joy Silberstein, born October 29, 1972 (now known as Tracee Ellis Ross) and Chudney Lane Silberstein, born November 4, 1975 (now known as Chudney Ross). Ross and Robert Silberstein divorced in March 1977.
In January 1986, she married Norwegian shipping magnate Arne Næss, Jr.. Their sons are Ross Arne Næss (born October 7, 1987) and Evan Olav Næss (born August 26, 1988), now known as Evan Ross). After several years of legal separation, Ross and Næss were officially divorced in late 2000. Næss was killed in a mountain-climbing accident in South Africa in 2004.
Rhonda and Tracee graduated from Brown University, and Chudney from Georgetown University. All have followed their mother to show business. Rhonda gained success as an actress in television movies and daytime soap operas. Tracee was a co-star of the hit UPN sitcom Girlfriends. Chudney is active in behind-the-scenes work and is also a model. Son Ross currently attends New York's Marist College, where he is a ski club member, and has not followed his siblings into show business. Youngest son Evan Ross is a successful actor, who starred in the successful major motion pictures, ATL and Pride (co-starring Terrance Howard) and the HBO film, "Life Support", co-starring Dana Owens (Queen Latifah) and his older sister, Tracee Ellis-Ross. He currently is starring in The CW's hit show "90210" playing the character named Charlie (2010).
Ross’s brother, Arthur "T-Boy" Ross, was a songwriter for Motown; he co-wrote, “I Want You”, recorded by Marvin Gaye in 1976. Arthur and his wife, Patricia Ann Robinson, were murdered in June 1996. They were discovered in a dank basement, bound and gagged, after next-door neighbors contacted police regarding a foul odor coming from a run-down house in Oak Park, Michigan - a northern suburb bordering Detroit. Police estimated that the bodies had been there for several days. The Ross family posted a $25,000 reward for any information related to the murders, but to date, the crime is unsolved. Diana Ross covered the song “I Want You” on her 2007 album I Love You.
Ross was a close friend and longtime mentor of Michael Jackson, with whom she co-starred in the 1978 film version of the Broadway musical, The Wiz (a remake of The Wizard of Oz). After Jackson's sudden death on June 25, 2009, Ross was named in his will as the custodian of his children in the event of the death of his mother, Katherine Jackson. Ross was invited to speak at the memorial held in Los Angeles on Tuesday July 7, 2009, but declined in a letter read by Smokey Robinson at the ceremony. Like Jackson's other close friends, Macaulay Culkin, Elizabeth Taylor, Quincy Jones, and Liza Minnelli, Ross stated that she wanted to grieve in private.
Ross became a grandmother in the summer of 2009 when her daughter, Rhonda, gave birth to a boy.
In popular culture
- Ross was portrayed by actress Samantha Kaine in the 2004 VH1 film Man in the Mirror: The Michael Jackson Story, a biographical film about Michael Jackson.
- She was portrayed by actress Holly Robinson Peete in the 1992 television mini-series The Jacksons: An American Dream.
- In the 1996 film Phenomenon, Forest Whitaker's character, Nate Pope, is obsessed with Diana Ross.
- In the 2001 comedy film Get Over It, the Dr Desmond Forrest-Oates character once claimed he made a song for Ross, which even included a flashback of the event, however Ross is not actually seen, only her leg passing (she did not, however, actually star in the film).
- Ross contributed her voice to the fictionalized version of herself in the debut episode of popular 1970's classic cartoon by ABC entitled, The Jackson 5ive.
- In the 2007 comedy "Juno", the main character, Juno MacGuff says about her name, "Zeus had tons of lays, but I'm pretty sure Juno was his only wife. She was supposed to be super beautiful, but really mean, like Diana Ross."
- New Zealand band Diana Rozz take their name from Ross.
Top Ten singlesThe following singles reached the Top Ten on either the United States Billboard Hot 100 pop singles chart or the United Kingdom UK Singles Chart.
- 1970: "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" (US #1, UK #6)
- 1970: "Remember Me" (UK #7)
- 1971: "I'm Still Waiting" (UK #1)
- 1971: "Surrender" (UK #10)
- 1973: "Touch Me in the Morning"(US #1, UK #9)
- 1973: "All Of My Life" (UK #9)
- 1974: "You Are Everything" (with Marvin Gaye) (UK #5)
- 1975: "Theme from Mahogany (Do You Know Where You're Going To)" (US #1, UK #5)
- 1976: "Love Hangover" (US #1, UK #10)
- 1980: "Upside Down" (US #1, UK #2)
- 1980: "I'm Coming Out" (US #5)
- 1980: "My Old Piano" (UK #5)
- 1980: "It's My Turn" (US #9)
- 1981: "Endless Love" (with Lionel Richie) (US #1, UK #7)
- 1981: "Why Do Fools Fall in Love" (US #7, UK #4)
- 1982: "Mirror Mirror" (US #8)
- 1982: "Work That Body" (UK #7)
- 1982: "Muscles" (US #10)
- 1985: "Missing You" (US #10)
- 1986: "Chain Reaction" (UK #1)
- 1991: "When You Tell Me That You Love Me" (UK #2)
- 1992: "One Shining Moment" (UK #10)
- 1999: "Not Over You Yet" (UK #9)
- 2005: "When You Tell Me That You Love Me" (with Westlife) (UK #2)
Top Ten albumsThe following albums reached the Top Ten on either the United States albums chart, including the R&B charts or the United Kingdom pop albums chart.
- 1970: Diana Ross (US #1 R&B)
- 1971: I'm Still Waiting (a/k/a Surrender) (UK #10)
- 1973: Lady Sings the Blues (US #1)
- 1973: Touch Me in the Morning (US #5; UK #7)
- 1973: Diana & Marvin (with Marvin Gaye) (UK #6)
- 1976: Diana Ross (US #5; UK #4)
- 1976: Greatest Hits (UK #2)
- 1979: 20 Golden Greats (UK #2)
- 1980: diana (US #2)
- 1981: Endless Love (US #9)
- 1982: Love Songs (UK #5)
- 1983: Portrait (UK #8)
- 1993: One Woman: The Ultimate Collection (UK #1)
- 1995: Take Me Higher (UK #10)
- 1964: T.A.M.I. Show (with The Supremes)
- 1965: Beach Ball (with The Supremes)
- 1972: Lady Sings the Blues
- 1975: Mahogany
- 1978: The Wiz
- 1994: Out of Darkness
- 1999: Double Platinum
- 2002: The Making and Meaning of We Are Family (documentary)
- 2010: Met With Sandra Ellison and Tamia Holmes
- 1968: [Tarzan (TV Series)] (with The Supremes)
- 1968: T.C.B. (with The Supremes)
- 1969: G.I.T. on Broadway (with The Supremes)
- 1971: Diana!
- 1977: The Big Event: An Evening with Diana Ross
- 1979: Diana Ross in Concert!
- 1981: diana
- 1981: Standing Room Only: Diana Ross
- 1983: Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever
- 1983: For One And For All - Diana Ross Live! in Central Park
- 1987: Diana Ross: Red Hot Rhythm and Blues
- 1989: Diana Ross: Workin' Overtime
- 1992: Diana Ross Live! The Lady Sings... Jazz & Blues: Stolen Moments
- 1994: Out of Darkness
- 1996: Super Bowl XXX
- 1999: Double Platinum
- 2000: VH1 Divas 2000: A Tribute to Diana Ross
- 2005: Tsunami Aid
- 2007: BET Awards 2007
- 2007: Kennedy Center Honors
- 2008: Nobel Peace Prize Concert
- Ross, Diana (October 1993). Secrets of a Sparrow. Random House. ISBN 0679428747.
- Ross, Diana; Rosanne Shelnutt (ed.) (December 2002). Diana Ross: Going Back. New York: Universe. ISBN 0789307979. (A scrapbook-style collection of photographs)