American vocalist, music artist and actress Diana Ernestine Earle Ross was born March 26, 1944. Ross first rose to fame as a founding member and lead singer of the Motown group The Supremes during the 1960s. when at the age of fifteen, Ross was brought to the attention of music impresario Milton Jenkins, manager of the local doo-wop group the Primes, by Mary Wilson. Paul Williams, then member of The Primes, convinced Jenkins to include Ross in the Primettes, considered a “sister group” of the Primes. Ross was part of a lineup that included Wilson, Florence Ballard and Betty McGlown, who completed the lineup. In 1960, following their win at a singing contest in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, the group auditioned for a spot on Motown Records after Smokey Robinson introduced the young group to Berry Gordy. Upon learning of their ages, Gordy advised them to come back after graduation. Undeterred, the quartet stayed around Motown’s Hitsville U.S.A. headquarters, offering to provide extra help for Motown’s recordings, often including hand-claps and background vocals. That same year, the Primettes made their first recordings for Lu Pine Records, with Ross singing lead on her and Ballard’s composition, “Tears of Sorrow”. During the group’s early years, Ross served as the group’s main hair stylist, make-up artist, seamstress and costume designer.
In January 1961, after having replaced McGlown with Barbara Martin, Berry Gordy agreed to sign the young act under the condition they change their name. Each member picked out various names from friends. Eventually they settled on The Supremes, though Ross initially had apprehensions toward the name – she felt the name would mistake them for a male vocal group. But Gordy agreed with the new name and signed them on January 15 of that year. Following Martin’s exit in 1962, the group remained a trio. During the group’s early years, there was no designated lead vocalist for the group as they had agreed to split lead vocals between their choice of song material; Ross favoring the uptempo pop songs. That changed in 1963 when Gordy assigned Ross, who had already sung lead on the majority of their early singles, as the main lead vocalist, considering that her vocals had potential to reach Gordy’s dreams of crossover success. Following this, they recorded their first hit single, “When the Lovelight Starts Shining Through His Eyes”, later that year, where it peaked at #23 on the Billboard Hot 100. Before this song, the Supremes were unfavorably pinned as the “no-hit Supremes”. Following this, the group reached number-one with “Where Did Our Love Go” and reached 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 UK top forty. The group had also become a hit with audiences both domestically and abroad, going on to become Motown’s most successful vocal act throughout the sixties.
Florence Ballard left the Supremes by Gordy in July 1967 and was replaced by Cindy Birdsong. In mid-1969, Gordy decided to have Ross leave the group by the end of the year and Ross began sessions for her own solo work that July. One of the first plans for Ross to establish her own solo career was to bring in a new Motown recording act. Though she herself didn’t claim discovery, Motown pinned Ross as having discovered The Jackson 5. Ross would introduce the group to several public events including The Hollywood Palace though she added in “Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5″, which didn’t sit well with the Jacksons’ father, Joseph Jackson and Gordy. In November, Ross confirmed a split from the Supremes on Billboard. Ross’ presumed first solo recording, “Someday We’ll Be Together”, was eventually released as a Supremes recording and became the group’s final number-one hit on the Hot 100. Ross made her final appearance with the Supremes at the Frontier Hotel in Las Vegas on January 14, 1970.
In 1968, Ross started performing as a solo artist mainly on television specials, including The Supremes’ own specials such as TCB and G.I.T. on Broadway and After leaving the group in 1970, Ross began a solo career that has included successful ventures into film and Broadway. She received a Best Actress Academy Award nomination for her role as Billie Holiday in Lady Sings the Blues (1972), for which she won a Golden Globe award for most promising female newcomer. She has won seven American Music Awards, and won a Special 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 due to her success in the United States and United Kingdom for having more hits than any female artist in the charts with a career total of 70 hit singles.Diana Ross has sold more than 100 million records worldwide. In 1988, Ross was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as member of the Supremes alongside Florence Ballard and Mary Wilson.Ross 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 the Kennedy Center Honors. In 2012, Diana was finally honored by NARAS with a Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award in her 50th year in the music business.