Diana Ross is an American singer and actress, who is one of the most successful recording artists with record sales exceeding 100 million copies. She was born on March 26, 1944, in Detroit, Michigan. She began singing in high school and formed a band with her friends Mary Wilson, Florence Ballard, and Barbara Martin. Martin dropped out, but the rest formed a group called “The Supremes” which was signed by Motown Records by the label founder Berry Gordy, in 1961 when they were just 17. Their first No. 1 hit song was “Where Did Our Love Go?” released in 1964. This was followed by a multitude of hits such as “Stop! In the Name of Love” released in 1965 and “Someday We Will Be Together” released in 1969. The group was later renamed “Diana Ross and the Supremes”.
Despite the group’s international success, Ross decided to leave and go solo, which she did in 1969. Her first successes as a solo artist were the singles “Reach Out and Touch Somebody’s Hand” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” which reached No. 1 on the pop charts and gave Ross her first Grammy Award nomination. She made her first foray into acting by starring in the 1972 film “Lady Sings the Blues” based on the life of Billie Holiday. Ross received a Golden Globe Award and an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress for her performance. She also sang the soundtrack for the film which was a huge success, reaching No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and generating one of her highest sales. In 1973, she recorded a duet album with Marvin Gaye, another successful Motown artist. The album was certified Gold in the U.K. and became a huge success overseas. Ross toured extensively in the following years, and even received an invitation for a private audience with the Japanese Empress Nagako at the Imperial Palace in Japan.
In 1974, Ross acted in the film “Mahagony” and achieved another No. 1 hit with the song “Theme from Mahogany (Do You Know Where You’re Going To)” which was on the film’s soundtrack. In 1976, she achieved another No. 1 hit with “Love Hangover”, this time in the genre of disco which was gaining popularity. She also won a Special Tony Award for her concert special “An Evening with Diana Ross”. Her final film “The Wiz” cast her in the role of Dorothy in an African American interpretation of “The wizard of Oz”, also starring Michael Jackson in the role of the Scarecrow. However it could not generate enough sales and made a net loss of $10 million.
Ross’s 1979 album “Boss” was certified Gold but her bestselling album to date was “Diana” released in 1980 which included the hits “Upside Down” and “I’m Coming Out”. She also recorded a No. 1 duet with the singer Lionel Richie, which was called “Endless Love”. In 1981, Ross left Motown Records and signed up with RCA Records for a $20 million contract. This was the most lucrative recording contract in music history at the time. Her first album with RCA was released in October 1981, and titled “Why Do Fools Fall in Love” which was a success. She also launched her own production company named Anaid Productions and continued to tour and perform extensively. She made several more albums with RCA including “Silk Electric”, “Ross” and “Eaten Alive” before returning to Motown in 1988. She undertook a string of albums, singles and concerts with varied success.
Diana has been married twice and has five children. Her personal life has been erratic and she has been arrested twice – once for a dispute with an airport security guard and once for driving under the influence. She is, however, undoubtedly a living legend with a career that spanned over four decades, several awards including Golden Globe, Tony Award, American Music Awards, induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, NAACP Image Awards, Billboard Awards, Guinness Book of World Records for the Most Successful Female Singer of All Time, star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, among others. She has been named the “Female Entertainer of the Century” by Billboard Magazine.