Of the many items worth noting today, the farewell concert of the Supremes is probably not the most important. After all, Nobel Laureate Albert Schweitzer was born. So was Benedict Arnold. George Wallace, who figured so prominently as an obstacle to civil rights then reversed himself years later, was inaugurated as Alabama's governor on this day in 1963. With the help of John Adams, James Madison, and Thomas Jefferson, the Treaty of Paris was ratified in 1784. And on this day in 1954, Marilyn Monroe married Joe DiMaggio.
But the story of the Supremes is what caught my attention today, perhaps because it is as sad as it is glitteringly remarkable. It evokes all the Gatsby-like longing that must have propelled those three young girls from the Detroit Housing Projects into one of the most successful musical trios in history.
They had 12 #1 hits in the first full decade of the rock-and-roll era, which places them behind only Elvis and the Beatles in terms of chart dominance. They helped define the very sound of the 60s, but like fellow icons the Beatles and Simon and Garfunkel, they came apart in the first year of the 70s. The curtain closed for good on Diana Ross and the Supremes on January 14, 1970, at the Frontier Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The farewell concert in Vegas was the final act in a drawn-out breakup that didn't become official until November 1969, but probably became inevitable in July 1967, when Motown Records chief Berry Gordy gave Diana Ross top billing over the Supremes. That move clearly signaled Gordy's intention to launch Diana on a solo career—something he may have had in mind from the moment he upgraded her first name from "Diane" and upstaged her fellow Supremes by making Diana the group's official lead singer.
To mark the day, here is a Storify slide-presentation with some of the group's best-loved performances. It includes the Barbara Walters interview with Diana Ross, which has all the earmarks of a legal threat lurking in the background following ABC's interview with an embittered Mary Wilson. The Oprah interview with Diana some years later is also in the line-up, along with a two-part Mary Wilson interview, a couple of live performances, and quite a few photos from back in the day, which come to us by way of Twitter.
For the nostalgic, a selective list of their hit songs might put the whole story in capsulized context. The curtain would open as the Supremes, still in the projects, sing, "There's a Place for Us (Somewhere)," followed by "Stop in the Name of Love," "Where Did Our Love Go," and the missed opportunity for reunion discussed during the Barbara Walters interview -- "Someday We'll Be Together." Alas, it was never to be. And yet, one could always end their story with the same longing that began it - which is what you will find on the last slide below as they sing, "To Dream The Impossible Dream."
Ladies and Gentlemen, The Supremes...
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