Friday, February 22, 2013

BHM: RIP Florence Ballard

Florence Ballard died on February 22, 1976.

This was before I even knew who she was. Now, of course, she is one of my musical idols. If you know her story it can not only serve as a primer on "what to do" but also on "what NOT to do." And that is the tragedy of her life.

Florence Ballard was the lead singer of a group of high school girls who were destined to become The Supremes. She joined with her friend Mary Wilson and several others, including new recuit Diane Ross, to try to become famous. By the time they were touring and trying desperately for a hit song, they were a trio. And, more significantly, Diane had became Diana, the lead singer.

Diana Ross is incredibly talented. I'm not here to say anything overtly negative about her. However, there seems to have been some assumptions made over the years that because Diana was talented, Mary and Flo were NOT. And  I will always work to prove that assumption false. Listen to the earliest recordings or the live broadcasts and you can hear the three beautiful voices, often raised in harmony. When the decision was made to make Diana Ross a solo artist, it came at the expense of two very talented women, and that is a shame.
Florence Ballard quit/was fired from the Supremes in 1967. She was replaced as a body by Cindy Birdsong, but the Supremes as a group ceased to exist at that time. From then on, it was de facto Diana Ross and her back-up singers.

Nine years later, Florence Ballard died of cardiac arrest. She is survived by her husband and three daughters.

If I had a time machine I think I would like to go back to 1965 or 1966 and go to a Supremes concert. I have listened to the Live At The Copa album and seen them on recordings from The Ed Sullivan Show, but I just don't think it would have been the same LIVE. If I could possibly have been in a line with an album, asking Flo for her autograph, telling her to not give up....

Rest in Peace
Florence Ballard 
(6-30-43 ~ 2-22-76)

"What's that woman doing?!"

Live on Hullabaloo with Frankie Avalon (circa 1965)
they end the clip with "Back In My Arms Again" 
which features Mary and Flo as characters in the lyrics! 

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