The Supremes: A Saga of Motown Dreams, Success, and Betrayal

( 10 )

Overview

The Supremes is a sprawling tale of unforgettable music, cutthroat ambition, and heartbreaking betrayal. Mark Ribowsky explodes Dreamgirl fantasies by taking the reader behind the closed doors of Motown to witness the rise of group leader Diana Ross, the creation of timeless classics like “Where Did Our Love Go?,” and the dramatic power struggles within Detroit’s fabled music factory. Drawing on firsthand, intimate recollections from knowledgeable sources such as the Temptations’s Otis Williams and other Motown ...

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The Supremes: A Saga of Motown Dreams, Success, and Betrayal

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Overview

The Supremes is a sprawling tale of unforgettable music, cutthroat ambition, and heartbreaking betrayal. Mark Ribowsky explodes Dreamgirl fantasies by taking the reader behind the closed doors of Motown to witness the rise of group leader Diana Ross, the creation of timeless classics like “Where Did Our Love Go?,” and the dramatic power struggles within Detroit’s fabled music factory. Drawing on firsthand, intimate recollections from knowledgeable sources such as the Temptations’s Otis Williams and other Motown contemporaries—many never before interviewed—The Supremes is “a comprehensive look at the tumultuous relationships within the Supremes as well as among others at the Motown label” (Library Journal).

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Music Media Monthly, 5/10/10
“If you cherish the memory of songs like ‘Stop! In the Name of Love,’ ‘Baby Love’ and ‘You Keep Me Hangin’ On,’ you’ll want to read all about the back story and intrigues that made The Supremes the best of Motown’s R&B and Soul groups of its day…A great read.”

Barnstable Patriot, 6/4/10
“[A] saga of supremely talented, yet sordid, lives. This is a dishy, dirty look at Berry Gordy and the trio of ghetto girls who he made stars…A tale as harrowing as it is nasty, this roller-coaster ride will finally tell you exactly where the love went.”

The TMR Zoo, 6/15/10

“A much needed 440 page book on one of the greatest ‘girl groups’ of all time…Ribowsky—very wisely—keeps the history front and center…What the author has done here is no small achievement. He’s managed to put a solid document together of this incredible hit machine, and bring the humanity of each individual involved to center stage…Ribowsky handles all of the bad and the good with objectivity and diplomacy…Highly recommended.”
 

Neworld Review, August 2010
“This book outlines in detail why the Detroit legend was so important to the history of American music and why it can never be duplicated.”

Publishers Weekly

Biographer of Phil Spector (He's a Rebel), among others, Ribowsky takes a dishy, insider look at Berry Gordy's making of the Supremes, with some nasty swipes at Diana Ross while elevating Flo Ballard as the trio's martyr. In his detailed look at how Berry engineered his Motown empire, thanks to his smart sisters and a lot of luck and fortuitous pairing of talent, Ribowsky nicely intersperses some hindsight reflections by the main players, such as the brothers Brian and Eddie Holland of the legendary songwriting team with Lamont Dozier, with comparative accounts by Mary Wilson, Ross and others in order to sift the truth from the legend. While the author constantly snipes at Ross for her "popping eyes" and naked ambition, it was largely her single-minded drive that garnered attention to the trio's early incarnation as the Primettes, and her high girl-woman singing voice that established the Supremes' distinctive sound. Moreover, Ross's influence on Gordy (and his faith in her future solo stardom) motivated him to keep pushing the group into the limelight, in spite of other girl groups that had a bigger top hit following, such as Martha Reeves and the Vandellas. In this engaging, vivacious account, Ribowsky energetically and thoroughly underscores the Supremes' significance as one of the first crossover successes. (July)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Kirkus Reviews
Acrid biography of the biggest female vocal group of all time. Ribowsky (Josh Gibson: The Power and the Darkness, 2004, etc.) dredges up all the muck he can find on Motown Records' hit-making trio, who tallied a dozen No. 1 pop-soul singles from 1964 through Diana Ross' departure for a solo career in 1969. The outline will be familiar to readers of past memoirs by Ross, member Mary Wilson and Motown founder Berry Gordy, which the writer pillages extensively while castigating their lack of candor. Founded in Detroit's Brewster-Douglass projects by teenager Florence Ballard as a quartet originally known as the Primettes, the group was nurtured to international stardom, after several flop singles, by self-made music mogul Gordy. The label chief was severely smitten with the skinny, purring Ross, a turbine of selfish ambition who enjoyed short-lived affairs with Gordy's adjutant Smokey Robinson and songwriter Brian Holland before taking up with her long-lusting boss after she hit pay dirt. Readers looking for another Dreamgirls should look elsewhere-no one escapes unscathed in this scabrous tome. Ross predictably emerges as an imperious, spotlight-hogging diva; Wilson is depicted as man-hungry, disloyal and timorous; the tragic Ballard, who died at 32 in 1976 after her brutal expulsion from the act she formed, is portrayed as a self-destructive, alcoholic loose cannon. Gordy hovers above the action as a deceitful, iron-fisted coveter of white-bread mainstream success who coldly robbed even his top act. Ribowsky, who relies heavily on secondary sources and testimony from disaffected members of the Motown "family," excessively magnifies and explicates each torturous incident in the Supremes'story. The author is also prone to five-dollar verbiage, frequently obvious flights of dim analysis and thudding attempts at cleverness. Overwritten and overtly sensational. Agent: Michael Dorr/LitPub Ink
The Barnes & Noble Review
The lifespan of the Supremes strangely parallels that of their chief commercial competitors of the '60s, the Beatles. In their classic configuration with lead singer Diana Ross and support vocalists Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard, the hit-making trio lasted only a handful of years --1962 to 1969 -- virtually shadowing the Beatles' own brief, brilliant existence. Yet while the British legends maintain a virtually pristine legacy, the Supremes' tale is mired in ugly accounts of collective sordid behavior; Ross's rampaging ego and gift for backstabbing; and, in the pathetic case of Ballard, early, ignominious death. In other words, perfect fodder for any intrepid biographer willing to delve into the murky waters of Motown history. For unlike the multi-talented Beatles, the Supremes were far from a self-contained unit seemingly predestined for success no matter whom they eventually aligned themselves with. Without the Motown machine behind them -- in particular, Holland-Dozier-Holland's expertly crafted songs and production -- and the monolithic guiding hand (make that fist) of company founder and mogul Berry Gordy, the triumph of the group is practically inconceivable. In workmanlike prose that gets the dirty job done, Ribowsky minutely chronicles the incestuous bedding and vicious infighting that went on between Motown acts, as well as the shifty business machinations that allowed Gordy to flagrantly screw his artistic "family." If the author never attempts to make a truly compelling case for Ross's unique vocal prowess, he does display a genuine affection for the Motown sound and its workings, acknowledging the indispensible contributions of the label's studio musicians, -- particularly the influential bassist James Jamerson -- and those of Brian and Eddie Holland and Lamont Dozier. Thanks to these inspired collaborators, the mini-masterpieces of the Supremes' heyday have yet to lose their luster, but, as Ribowsky rams home, they came at quite a cost. --Steve Futterman
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780306818738
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press
  • Publication date: 4/27/2010
  • Pages: 480
  • Sales rank: 637,612
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Mark Ribowsky is the author of He’s a Rebel: Phil Spector, Rock & Roll’s Legendary Producer; Don’t Look Back; and other books on music, sports, and popular culture. He lives in New York.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 10 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 10 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 1, 2009

    The Supremes story

    I have read this book i am also a Supremes fan i know all their is to know about The Supremes i have all their recordings i find this book to be disstasteful and sladerous i am friends with Florence's sister and i do not feel it is right for someone to make up things just for the sake of making a fast buck this man does not have all his facts straight and anyone who was connected to motown and the people involved with this book knows what the truth is. Please read the following books Dreamgirl My Life As A Supreme and Supreme Faith both by Mary Wilson an original member of The Supremes and The True Story Of Florence Ballard by Maxine Precious Ballard Jenkins

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2011

    Something old? Something new?

    If you have never read anything about Motown and/or The Supremes...this book will fascinate you.If you have read anything about Motown and/or The Supremes...this book will not surprise you.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 18, 2013

    Someone

    Does anyone know ifthis book is non fiction ?

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  • Posted September 15, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Well done!!!

    I have read many books on Motown, and have found this book to be most honest and believable. It credits Diana Ross for not only the success of the Supremes, but the success of Motown. Well done...

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 4, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted April 30, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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    Posted November 18, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 12, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 2, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted June 15, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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