Ballard in 1965
|Birth name||Florence Glenda Ballard|
|Also known as||Florence Chapman|
|Born||June 30, 1943|
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
|Died||February 22, 1976 32) (aged|
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
Florence Glenda Chapman ( née Ballard; June 30, 1943 – February 22, 1976) was an American singer, a founding member of the popular Motown vocal female group the Supremes. She sang on 16 top 40 singles with the group, including ten number-one hits. After being removed from the Supremes in 1967, Ballard tried an unsuccessful solo career with ABC Records before she was dropped from the label at the end of the decade. Ballard struggled with alcoholism, depression, and poverty for three years. She was making an attempt at a musical comeback when she died of a heart attack in February 1976 at the age of 32. Ballard's death was considered by one critic as "one of rock's greatest tragedies". Ballard was posthumously inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Supremes in 1988.
Florence Glenda Ballard was born in Detroit, Michigan on June 30, 1943 to Lurlee ( née Wilson) and Jesse Ballard, as the eighthof thirteen children or ninth of fifteen children. Her siblings were Bertie, Cornell, Jesse, Jr., Gilbert, Geraldine, Barbara, Maxine, Billy, Calvin, Pat, Linda and Roy. Her mother was a resident of Rosetta, Mississippi. Her father was born Jesse Lambert in Bessemer, Alabama; after his grandmother was shot and killed, he was adopted by the Ballard family. Jesse Ballard left his adoptive parents at 13, and soon engaged in an affair with Ballard's mother, who was only 14, in Rosetta. The Ballards moved to Detroit in 1929. Jesse soon worked at General Motors. Jesse, an amateur musician, helped inspire Florence's interest in singing; he taught her various songs and accompanied her on guitar. Financial difficulties forced the Ballard family to move to different Detroit neighborhoods; by the time Florence turned 15 they had settled at Detroit's Brewster-Douglass housing projects, and the next year Jesse Lambert Ballard died of cancer.
Named "Blondie" and "Flo" by family and friends, Ballard attended Northeastern High School and was coached vocally by Abraham Silver. Ballard met future singing partner Mary Wilson during a middle-school talent show and they became friends while attending Northeastern High. From an early age, Ballard aspired to be a singer and agreed to audition for a spot on a sister group of the local Detroit attraction, the Primes, who were managed by Milton Jenkins. After she was accepted, Ballard recruited Mary Wilson to join Jenkins' group.Wilson, in turn, enlisted another neighbor, Diana Ross, then going by "Diane". Betty McGlown completed the original lineup and Jenkins named them as "The Primettes". The group performed at talent showcases and at school parties before auditioning for Motown Records in 1960. Berry Gordy, head of Motown, advised the group to graduate from high school before auditioning again. Ballard eventually dropped out of high school though her groupmates graduated.
In 1960, Ballard was allegedly raped at knifepoint by local high-school basketball player Reggie Harding after leaving a sock hop at Detroit's Graystone Ballroom (she had attended with her brother, but they accidentally lost track of each other).The rape occurred in an empty parking lot off Woodward Avenue. Ballard responded by secluding herself in her house refusing to come outside, which worried her groupmates. Weeks later, Ballard told Wilson and Ross what had happened. Though Ross and Wilson were sympathetic, they were also confused because Ballard was considered to be strong-willed and unflappable. Both Wilson and Jesse Green, an early boyfriend of Florence's, had described her as a "generally happy if somewhat mischievous and sassy teenager." Wilson believes that the incident heavily contributed to the more self-destructive aspects of Ballard's adult personality, like cynicism, pessimism, and fear or distrust of others, but the rape was never mentioned again.
Later in 1960, the Primettes signed a contract with Lu Pine Records, issuing two songs that failed to perform well. During that year, they kept pursuing a Motown contract and agreed to do anything that was required, including adding handclaps and vocal backgrounds.By the end of the year, Berry Gordy agreed to have the group record songs in the studio. In January 1961, Gordy agreed to sign them on the condition they change their name. Janie Bradford approached Ballard with a list of names to choose from before Ballard chose "Supremes". When the other members heard of the new name, they were not pleased. Diana Ross feared they would be mistaken for a male vocal group. Eventually Gordy agreed to sign them under that name on January 15, 1961.
The group struggled in their early years with the label,releasing eight singles that failed to crack the Billboard Hot 100, giving them the nickname "no-hit Supremes". One track, "Buttered Popcorn", led by Ballard, was a regional hit in the Midwest, but still failed to chart. During a 1962 Motortown Revue tour, Ballard briefly replaced the Marvelettes' Wanda Young while she was on maternity leave. Before the release of their 1962 debut album, Meet the Supremes , Barbara Martin, who had replaced Betty McGlown a year before they signed to Motown, left the group. Ballard, Ross and Wilson remained a trio. After the hit success of 1963's "When the Love Light Starts Shining Through His Eyes", Diana Ross became the group's lead singer.
In the spring of 1964, the group released "Where Did Our Love Go", which became their first number-one hit on the Billboard Hot 100, paving the way for ten number-one hits recorded by Ross, Ballard and Wilson between 1964 and 1967. After many rehearsals with Cholly Atkins and Maurice King, the Supremes' live shows improved dramatically as well. During this time, Ballard sang lead on several songs on Supremes' albums, including a cover of Sam Cooke's "(Ain't That) Good News". During live shows, Ballard often performed the Barbra Streisand standard, "People". According to Mary Wilson, Ballard's vocals were so loud she was made to stand 17 feet away from her microphone during recording sessions.Marvin Gaye, for whom Ballard sang backing vocals on occasion, described her as "a hell of a singer, probably the strongest of the three girls." All in all, Ballard contributed vocals to ten number-one pop hits and 16 top forty hit singles between 1963 and 1967.
Ballard expressed dissatisfaction with the group's direction throughout its successful period. She would also claim that their schedule had forced the group members to drift apart.Ballard blamed Motown Records for destroying the group dynamic by making Diana Ross the star. Struggling to cope with label demands and her own bout with depression, Ballard turned to alcohol for comfort, leading to arguments with her group members. Ballard's alcoholism led to her missing performances and recording sessions. Gordy sometimes replaced Ballard on stage with the Andantes' Marlene Barrow. In April 1967, Cindy Birdsong, member of Patti LaBelle and the Blue Belles, became a stand-in for Ballard. A month later, Ballard returned to the group from what she thought was a temporary leave of absence. In June, Gordy changed the group's name to "The Supremes with Diana Ross", which was how they were billed on the marquee of Las Vegas' Flamingo Hotel.
On July 1, the day after her 24th birthday, Ballard showed up inebriated during the group's third performance at the Flamingo and stuck her stomach out from her suit. Angered, Gordy ordered her to return to Detroit, and Birdsong officially replaced her, abruptly ending her tenure with the Supremes.It had been decided as early as May that Birdsong would be Ballard's official replacement once Birdsong's contract with the Bluebelles was bought out. In August 1967, the Detroit Free Press reported that Ballard had taken a temporary leave of absence from the group due to "exhaustion". Ballard eventually married her boyfriend, Thomas Chapman, on February 29, 1968. A week earlier, on February 22, Ballard and Motown negotiated to have Ballard released from the label. Her attorney in the matter received a one-time payment of $139,804.94 in royalties and earnings from Motown. As part of the settlement, Ballard was advised to not promote her solo work as a former member of the Supremes. In March 1968, Ballard signed with ABC Records and released two unsuccessful singles. After an album for the label was shelved, her settlement money was depleted from the Chapmans' management agency, Talent Management, Inc. The agency had been led by Leonard Baun, Ballard's attorney who had helped to settle Ballard's matters with Motown. Following news that Baun was facing multiple embezzlement charges, Ballard fired him. She continued to perform as a solo artist, opening for Bill Cosby that September at Chicago's Auditorium Theater. In January 1969, Ballard performed at one of newly elected President Richard Nixon's inaugural balls. Ballard was dropped from ABC in 1970.
In July 1971, Ballard sued Motown for additional royalty payments she believed she was due to receive; she was defeated in court by Motown.Shortly afterwards, Ballard and her husband separated following several domestic disputes and Ballard's home was foreclosed. Facing poverty and depression, Ballard became an alcoholic and shied away from the spotlight. In 1972, she moved into her sister Maxine's house. In 1974 Mary Wilson invited Ballard to join the Supremes, which now included Cindy Birdsong and Scherrie Payne (Ross had left for her successful solo career in 1970). Though Ballard played tambourine, she didn't sing and told Wilson she had no ambition to sing any more. Later that year Ballard's plight started to be reported in newspapers as word got around that the singer had applied for welfare. Around that time, Ballard entered Henry Ford Hospital for rehab treatment. Following six weeks of treatment, Ballard slowly started to recover.
In early 1975, Ballard received an insurance settlement from her former attorney's insurance company. The settlement money helped her buy a house on Shaftsbury Avenue. Inspired by the financial success, Ballard decided to return to singing and also reconciled with Chapman. Ballard's first concert performance in more than five years took place at the Henry and Edsel Ford Auditorium in Detroit on June 25, 1975. Ballard performed as part of the Joan Little Defense League and was backed by female rock group the Deadly Nightshade. Afterward she started receiving offers for interviews; Jet magazine was one of the first to report on Ballard and her recovery.
On February 21, 1976, Ballard entered Mt. Carmel Mercy Hospital, complaining of numbness in her extremities. She died at 10:05 the next morning from cardiac arrestcaused by a coronary thrombosis (a blood clot in one of her coronary arteries), at the age of 32. Ballard is buried in Detroit Memorial Park Cemetery in Warren, Michigan.
Florence Ballard's story has been referenced in a number of works by other artists. The 1980 song "Romeo's Tune", from Steve Forbert's album Jackrabbit Slim is "dedicated to the memory of Florence Ballard". The Billy Bragg song "King James Version" on his William Bloke album contains the line "Remember the sadness in Florence Ballard's eyes". On his 2006 album Hip Hop is Dead , hip-hop artist Nas mentions the Ballard/Ross rivalry in his song "Blunt Ashes": "When Flo from the Supremes died/Diana Ross cried/Many people said that she was laughing inside." In his short story "You Know They Got a Hell of a Band", Stephen King, through the late disc jockey Alan Freed, includes Ballard as one of the deceased artists who performs in a town called "Rock and Roll Heaven".
Dreamgirls , a 1981 Broadway musical, chronicles a fictional group called "The Dreams," and a number of plot components parallel events in the Supremes' career.The central character of Effie White, like Florence Ballard, is criticized for being overweight, and is fired from the group. The film version of Dreamgirls released in 2006 features more overt references to Ballard's life and the Supremes' story, including gowns and album covers that are direct copies of Supremes originals. Jennifer Hudson won a Golden Globe Award and Academy Award for her portrayal of Effie White in the Dreamgirls film. In her Golden Globe acceptance speech, Hudson dedicated her win to Florence Ballard. The music video for the Diana Ross song "Missing You" pays tribute to Marvin Gaye, Ballard, and Paul Williams, all former Motown artists who had died. In 1988, Ballard was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Supremes alongside Diana Ross and Mary Wilson.
On June 25, 2019, The New York Times Magazine listed Florence Ballard among hundreds of artists whose material was reportedly destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire.
Ballard began dating Thomas Chapman, a Motown Records chauffeur, in 1967; they married in a private celebration in Hawaii on February 29, 1968, and had three daughters: Michelle Denise, Nichole Reneand Lisa Sabrina (b. 1971). Ballard reportedly had several domestic disputes with her husband and filed for divorce in 1973, but they reconciled in late 1975, prior to her death. Besides her three daughters, Ballard's family included her cousin, rhythm and blues singer and songwriter Hank Ballard, and his grandnephew, NFL player Christian Ballard; she was also an aunt of the Detroit electronic musician Omar-S.
The Supremes were an American female singing group and a premier act of Motown Records during the 1960s. Founded as The Primettes in Detroit, Michigan, in 1959, the Supremes were the most commercially successful of Motown's acts and are, to date, America's most successful vocal group with 12 number one singles on the Billboard Hot 100. Most of these hits were written and produced by Motown's main songwriting and production team, Holland–Dozier–Holland. At their peak in the mid-1960s, the Supremes rivaled the Beatles in worldwide popularity, and it is said that their success made it possible for future African American R&B and soul musicians to find mainstream success.
Diana Ross is an American singer, actress, and record producer. Born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, Ross rose to fame as the lead singer of the vocal group The Supremes, who during the 1960s became Motown's most successful act, and are the best-charting female group in US history, as well as one of the world's best-selling girl groups of all time. The group released a record-setting twelve number-one hit singles on the US Billboard Hot 100: "Where Did Our Love Go", "Baby Love", "Come See About Me", "Stop! In the Name of Love", "Back in My Arms Again", "I Hear a Symphony", "You Can't Hurry Love", "You Keep Me Hangin' On", "Love is Here and Now You're Gone", "The Happening", "Love Child", and "Someday We'll Be Together".
Mary Wilson is an American vocalist, concert performer, music rights activist, ambassador of the Supremes and author. Wilson is best known as a founding member and longest member of the Supremes, who during the 1960s became Motown's most successful act, and are the best-charting female group in US history, as well as one of the world's best-selling girl groups of all time. Wilson remained with the group following the departures of other original members, Florence Ballard in 1967 and Diana Ross in 1970. Following Wilson's own departure in 1977, the group disbanded. Wilson later became a New York Times Best Seller in 1986 with the release of her autobiography, Dreamgirl: My Life As a Supreme, a record setter for sales in its genre, and later Supreme Faith: Someday We'll Be Together; both books later were released as an updated combination. Continuing a successful career as a concert performer, Wilson also became a musicians' rights activist as well as a musical theater performer and organizer of various museum displays of the Supremes' famed costumes. Wilson was inducted along with Ross and Ballard into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988.
Velma Jean Terrell is an American R&B and jazz singer. She replaced Diana Ross as the lead singer of The Supremes in January 1970.
"Someday We'll Be Together" is a song written by Johnny Bristol, Jackey Beavers, and Harvey Fuqua. It was the last of twelve American number-one pop singles for Diana Ross & the Supremes on the Motown label. Although it was released as the final Supremes song featuring Diana Ross, who left the group for a solo career in January 1970, it was recorded as Ross' first solo single and Supremes members Mary Wilson and Cindy Birdsong do not sing on the recording. Both appear on the B-side, "He's My Sunny Boy".
"Love Child" is a 1968 song released by the Motown label for Diana Ross & the Supremes. The second single and title track from their album Love Child, it became the Supremes' 11th number-one single in the United States.
Dreamgirl: My Life as a Supreme is a 1986 autobiography that features the memoirs of Mary Wilson, one of the founding members of Motown singing trio The Supremes. It was a New York Times Best Seller for months, and remains one of the best-selling rock-and-roll autobiographies of all time. The title of the book is a reference to Dreamgirls, a 1981 Broadway musical loosely based on the lives and careers of the Supremes. Dreamgirl covers the Diana Ross-led years of the group. In 1990 Wilson penned a follow-up entitled Supreme Faith: Someday We'll Be Together that covers Wilson's life since 1970. Both books and a new afterword were included in a combined volume titled Dreamgirl & Supreme Faith: My Life as a Supreme in 2000.
Farewell is a 1970 live album by Diana Ross & the Supremes. The album was recorded over the course of the group's final engagement together at the New Frontier Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, including the final night on January 14, 1970. The show marked Diana Ross' penultimate performance with fellow Supremes members Mary Wilson and Cindy Birdsong. At the conclusion of the show, new Supremes lead singer Jean Terrell was brought onstage and introduced to the audience.
Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever is a 1983 television special, produced by Suzanne de Passe for Motown Records, to commemorate Motown's 25th year. The program was taped before a live studio audience at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium in Pasadena, California on March 25, 1983, and broadcast on NBC on May 16. Among its highlights were Michael Jackson's performance of "Billie Jean", Smokey Robinson's long-awaited reunion with The Miracles, a Temptations / Four Tops "battle of the bands", Marvin Gaye's inspired speech about black music history and his memorable performance of "What's Going On", a Jackson 5 reunion, and an abbreviated reunion of Diana Ross & the Supremes, who performed their final #1 hit, "Someday We'll Be Together" from 1969. The show was co-written by de Passe with Ruth Adkins Robinson who would go on to write shows with de Passe for the next 25 years, including the follow-up label tributes—through "Motown 40," Buz Kohan was the head writer.
Let The Sunshine In is the sixteenth studio album by Diana Ross & the Supremes recorded and released by Motown in 1969. It contains the hit single "I'm Livin' in Shame", "The Composer," a Smokey Robinson composition that peaked at number 27, and "No Matter What Sign You Are," - a single produced by Motown chief Berry Gordy that failed to crack to Top 30. Motown had titled the album “No Matter What Sign You Are” originally; going as far as creating the front cover art with the title in it, but when the single didn’t chart as expected the album was retitled “Let The Sunshine In.” Though the album was released when the group consisted of Diana Ross, Mary Wilson and Cindy Birdsong, original founding member Florence Ballard appears on two songs.
Barbara Diane Martin Richardson was an American singer, best known as one of the original members of Motown group The Supremes. She was born in Detroit.
Cream of the Crop is the eighteenth studio album released by Diana Ross & the Supremes for the Motown label. It was the final regular Supremes studio album to feature lead singer Diana Ross. The album was released in November 1969, after the release and rising success of the hit single "Someday We'll Be Together."
Meet the Supremes is the debut studio album by The Supremes, released in late 1962 on Motown. The LP includes the group's earliest singles: "I Want a Guy", "Buttered Popcorn", "Your Heart Belongs to Me" and "Let Me Go the Right Way". The earliest recordings on this album, done between fall 1960 and fall 1961, feature the Supremes as a quartet composed of teenagers Diane Ross, Mary Wilson, Florence Ballard, and Barbara Martin. Martin left the group in early 1962 to start a family, and the other three girls continued as a trio. Martin is not pictured on the album because of her departure earlier in the year, although her vocals are present on the majority of the recordings on the album. She does have a spoken interlude line on the bridge of the song "(He's) Seventeen", and also sings lead on "After All", a song recorded for but not originally included on the album. Along with these songs, Ballard and Wilson are heard out front on other songs as well. Wilson sings lead on "The Tears" and "Baby Don't Go"; Ballard has leads on a handful of songs as well, including "Buttered Popcorn" and the short intro line to "Let Me Go the Right Way".
The Supremes at the Copa is a live album by Motown singing group The Supremes, recorded during their debut engagement at the prestigious Copacabana nightclub in New York City. Released in the late fall of 1965, At the Copa was the first live album issued by The Supremes, and the only live album issued by the group's best-known lineup of Diana Ross, Florence Ballard and Mary Wilson.
"Your Heart Belongs to Me" is a 1962 song written and composed by The Miracles' William "Smokey" Robinson and released as a single by Motown singing group The Supremes during their early years with the label. The song is about a woman whose lover is in the armed forces and has "Gone to a far-away land"; its narration has her tell him to always remember their love for each other if he ever gets lonely.
"Let Me Go the Right Way" is a 1962 song written and produced by then Motown president Berry Gordy and released as a single by Motown singing group The Supremes. It was the group's fourth single and their second charted record following the dismal reception of their first charted single, "Your Heart Belongs to Me".
"In and Out of Love" is a 1967 song recorded by The Supremes for the Motown label. It was the second single issued with the group's new billing of Diana Ross & the Supremes, the penultimate Supremes single written and produced by Motown production team Holland–Dozier–Holland, and the last single to feature the vocals of original member Florence Ballard.
"Buttered Popcorn" is a 1961 song written by Motown president Berry Gordy and songwriter Barney Ales, produced by Gordy, and released as a Tamla label single by Motown singing group The Supremes. It was the group's second single after signing with Motown Records as well as their second, and last, single for the Tamla label, before moving to the Motown label.
"Where Did Our Love Go" is a 1964 song recorded by American music group the Supremes for the Motown label.
"Love Ain't Love" is the second solo single released by singer Florence Ballard of the Supremes after her departure from the group.