Diana Ernestine Earle Ross, born in March 26, 1944, American popular singer, one of the most influential recording artists of the Motown era (1960s) and the disco period of rhythm-and-blues (R&B) music (late 1970s to early 1980s).
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 with her work with the Supremes and as a solo artist. Diana Ross has sold more than 100 million records worldwide when her releases with the Supremes and as a solo artist are tallied.
Known for her seductive vocal style and glamorous appearance, Ross helped her vocal group the Supremes become one of the most successful acts in the history of popular music. Ross was born into a poor family in Detroit, Michigan. At fifteen, Ross was brought to the attention of music impresario Milton Jenkins, manager of the local doo-wop group the Primes, by Mary Wilson. During high school, she and singers Florence Ballard and Mary Wilson formed a vocal group that became known as the Primettes. In 1961 the group signed a recording contract with the Motown Record Company and changed its name to the Supremes. Between 1964 and 1967 the Supremes dominated commercial radio airplay with a series of successful songs, including songs of emotional suffering such as “Stop in the Name of Love” (1965), “You Keep Me Hanging On” (1966), and “Reflections” (1967). (“Reflections” later became the theme song for the television series “China Beach” [1988-1991]). Other of their songs from the period were sweeter in style, including “Come See About Me” (1964), “Mother Dear,” which appeared on their popular album More Hits by the Supremes (1965), and “You Can’t Hurry Love” (1966). Ten of the group’s songs became number-one records on the Billboard magazine music charts. The Supremes’ success was largely due to the skillful songwriting of Motown writer-producers Eddie Holland, Lamont Dozier, and Brian Holland. The group’s hit songs usually told stories of lost love and almost all had repetitive lyrics and melodies, such as the songs “Baby Love” (1964) and “Nothing but Heartaches” (1965). Ross and the Supremes were at the center of media attention in the mid-1960s, with Ross especially taking on a larger-than-life persona in her array of dress wigs and glitzy gowns. In 1967 Florence Ballard was replaced and the group changed its name to Diana Ross and the Supremes. Fashioning herself after motion-picture stars of the 1940s, Ross received criticism for a perceived vanity and arrogance. Regardless, by making herself into one of the first black superstars in America, she helped to break down some of the social barriers that black American artists faced at the time.
In 1970 Ross left the Supremes and embarked upon a solo career. Her most successful songs as a solo performer include the melodramatic “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” (1970) and the disco hits “Love Hangover” (1976) and “Upside Down” (1980). Ross broadened her career, acting in motion pictures. She had the lead role in Lady Sings the Blues (1972), a film biography of jazz singer Billie Holiday. Later she starred in The Wiz (1978), a re-creation of a Broadway musical, costarring singer Michael Jackson. Ross, who since 1969 had helped guide Jackson in his musical career, later recorded “Muscles” (1982), a hit disco song written and produced by Jackson. Other notable recordings of her solo career include two ballads: “Friend to Friend” from the album Diana (1980); and “Missing You” (1985), a tribute to soul singer Marvin Gaye that was released shortly after his death in 1984. In the 1990s Ross continued to record music, including the album Take Me Higher (1995). In 1988 the Supremes were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
In February 2012, Diana Ross received her first ever Grammy Award, for Lifetime Achievement, and announced the nominees for the Album of the Year. 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. Billboard magazine named Ross the “female entertainer of the century”