Category: Diana Ross

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Jet magazine

covers from 1971

On this day in music history: September 6, 1980 – “Upside Down” by Diana Ross hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 4 weeks, also topping the R&B singles chart for 4 weeks on August 16, 1980. Written and produced by Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers, it is the fifth solo chart topper for the Motown superstar. When producers Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers sign on to work with Diana Ross, they meet the singer at her apartment in New York City. During the several hours they talk to her, she speaks of wanting her record to sound like nothing she’s done before, wanting to make a break with her past both musically and personally. Edwards and Rodgers leave the meeting inspired, and quickly write an entire albums’ worth of material for Ross. Originally titled “The Work Song”, “Upside Down” is inspired by their conversation, being about a woman who is deeply in love with a man who she’s aware isn’t faithful to her, but can’t let go of him. The song is rumored to be about either actor Ryan O’Neal or musician Gene Simmons of the band KISS, both of whom Ross had dated during this period. One of the first tracks recorded for the “diana” album, the basic track and vocals for “Upside Down” are recorded in November of 1979. When the album is released in May of 1980, initially “I’m Coming Out” (#5 Pop, #6 R&B) is chosen to be the first single, but Motown abruptly cancels its release (issuing it as the second single on August 22, 1980) and issues “Upside Down” instead on June 25, 1980. Entering the Hot 100 at #82 on July 12, 1980, the record at first struggles up the chart, taking a month to crack the Top 50. Then on August 9, 1980, the record suddenly pole vaults from #49 to #10 in a single week. Four weeks after that, it makes its final ascent to the top the chart. The funky, groove laden “Upside Down” becomes one of Diana Ross’ biggest and most enduring hits, earning her a Grammy nomination for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female in 1981. In 1997, the song is sampled as the basis for the remix version of MC Lyte’s hit “Cold Rock A Party”. “Upside Down” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: August 18, 1973 – “Touch Me In The Morning” by Diana Ross hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week, also topping the Adult Contemporary chart for 1 week on July 28, 1973, and peaking at #5 on the R&B singles chart on August 4, 1973. Written by Ron Miller and Michael Masser, is the the second solo chart topper (fourteenth overall) for the singer and actress from Detroit, MI. Following her Academy Award nominated performance as Billie Holiday in the biopic “Lady Sings The Blues”, Diana Ross shifts her attention back to her music career in the Spring of 1973. Looking to give his biggest star artist a boost after her Oscar loss, Berry Gordy looks to put Ross back on the top of the charts. Gordy and Motown A&R chief Suzanne dePasse puts together a team to write a big hit for the Motown superstar. Songwriter and producer Ron Miller, best known for writing classics like “For Once In My Life” and “Heaven Help Us All” for Stevie Wonder, is given the assignment to work with Ross. At this time, Gordy and dePasse discovers a former stockbroker turned songwriter named Michael Masser to collaborate with Miller. The pair hit it off instantly and write the sultry “Touch Me In The Morning” for Ross. The recording session are rough going when Ross has a difficult time with the complexly structured song. Running through twelve takes of the song, the singer still feels unsatisfied with her performance after working on her vocals all night. Miller and Masser spend 300 hours in the recording studio editing Diana Ross’ final vocal performance together on “Touch Me In The Morning” from those takes. Released as a single on May 3, 1973, the single does not initially have an easy climb up the charts, actually losing its bullet as it climbs the pop singles chart. Entering the Hot 100 at #89 on June 2, 1973, it climbs to the top of the chart eleven weeks later. The huge success of “Touch Me In Morning” not only restores Diana Ross back on the top of the pop chart for the first time in nearly two years, it marks the beginning of Michael Masser’s hugely successful career as a songwriter and producer. Masser and Ross collaborate several more times over the years scoring another number one hit with “Theme From Mahogany (Do You Know Where You’re Going To)” and the top ten film theme “It’s My Turn”.

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Backstage The Top of the Pops

The Rolling Stones (1964)

The Supremes (1965)

Ike & Tina Turner (1966)

Cher (1966)

Jimi Hendrix (1967)

Shirley Bassey (1968)

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Diana Ross performing during her “For One and For All” concert at Central Park in New York City on July 22, 1983.

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Sepia magazine covers from the 1970s

On this day in music history: July 21, 1983 – Diana Ross puts on a free concert in Central Park with over 800,000 fans in attendance. The show is to raise funds to build a playground for children, with the proceeds coming from the television rights purchased by Showtime who broadcast the concert live via satellite. The show takes place on the Great Lawn at the center of the park, and is rained out by a major thunderstorm after just forty five minutes, leading to fans scrambling to get out of the storm. Incidents of mugging and pick pocketing are reported by fans leaving the area. The concert is rescheduled, and the show goes off without a hitch the next day. Cost overruns from having to postpone the concert forces Ross to pay for the construction (at a cost of $275,000) out of her own pocket. The playground is located at West 81st Street and Central Park West, groundbreaking takes place in September 1986, with the construction finally being completed in 1987. The Central Park concert is officially released on DVD as “Diana Ross: For One And For All” by Shout Factory in 2012.

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1970s Ebony Magazine Covers

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Marvin Gaye and Diana Ross photographed by Jim Britt, 1973.

On this day in music history: June 19, 1970 – “Diana Ross”, the debut album by Diana Ross is released. Produced by Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson, it is recorded at Motown Studio A in Detroit, MI and A&R Studios in New York City from September 1969 – March 1970. The former Supremes lead singer begins work on her solo debut before leaving the group officially in January 1970. Motown, wanting to market her as the “black Barbra Streisand” initially have Ross record with producer Bones Howe. The material they record ends up being shelved and Ashford & Simpson along with Motown staff songwriter/producer Johnny Bristol are  given the assignment of crafting the Motown superstars’ debut. The album spins off two singles including “Reach Out And Touch (Somebody’s Hand)” (#7 R&B, #20 Pop) and a dramatic reworking of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” (#1 R&B and Pop), first recorded by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell in 1967. It is the albums breakout hit and establishes Ross as a solo star in her own right. The LP’s distinctive and iconic cover photo, taken by fashion photographer Harry Langdon, features a sepia toned picture of Ross wearing a tie-dyed T-shirt and cut off shorts, holding an apple. The photo is taken with a special optical lens, distorting her features. After taking a series of high glamour shots the same day, the casual picture is chosen instead to stand in sharp contrast to the Motown superstars elegant, high fashion image. Originally released on CD in the mid 80’s, it is remastered and reissued in 2002, featuring eight bonus tracks, including four previously unreleased tracks from the aborted Bones Howe produced sessions and tracks produced by Johnny Bristol. Out of print on vinyl since the late 80’s, it is reissued as a 180 gram LP on Universal’s “Back To Black” series, and by Speakers Corner Records in 2009. “Diana Ross” spends two weeks at number one on the Billboard R&B album chart, peaking at number nineteen on the Top 200.

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