The profound effect of the Supremes on popular music – the Oracle

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The band’s influence on the music as a whole is felt throughout our modern times.

With the death of Mary Wilson, one of the co-founders of soul supergroup “The Supremes”, American pop culture media reflected on the influence of this hugely popular Motown group on music as a whole. Motown has had a profound impact on pushing black music further into the collective consciousness of society, as well as normalizing black performers as bona fide celebrities.

Photo from the Naples Daily NewsMary Wilson was a founding member of The Supremes, as well as a successful author and leading activist. Wilson died on February 8 of this year at the age of 76.

The Supremes were originally known as “The Primettes” and were a quartet consisting of Mary Wilson, Diana Ross, Florence Ballard and Betty McGlown. The girls met when they were 15 and, through neighborly connections, found themselves backing vocals on records of more established Motown singers. Eventually, Barbara Martin replaced McGlown and so the Supremes were born in 1961. Signed to Motown Records, the group would rival the Beatles in popularity. They were the first American group to have three number one hits from the same album: ‘Where Did Our Love Go’, ‘Baby Love’ and ‘Come See About Me’.

Photo from Pop on the run“Where Did Our Love Go” was the Supremes’ second studio album, released in 1964. Three of the group’s albums reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200.

Even though The Supremes had ten members in total over the years – Ross’s sudden solo career and other factors would push the group in many different directions – the group managed to remain relevant in popular culture in a way that which most Motown artists would have killed. Part of that was their glamorous image – the sparkling pearl and crystal-covered dresses, big hair pulled up to eleven, and their ballroom queen aesthetic, pushed by the marketing genius and founder of Motown known as name of Berry Gordy Jr.

The movements of later Disco, 80s funk and R&B would be shaped by The Supremes. From Beyoncé to Kelly Rowland to The Pussycat Dolls, in a world where black women, and all women of color, don’t always have the opportunity to shine as brightly as they deserve, The Supremes has inspired new generations of songwriters to see themselves as the stars of their own artistic galaxies.

Black girl groups inspired by the Supremes would see their popularity increase. Both TLC and Destiny’s Child were seen as worthy successors who pushed for a more modern approach to R&B. Thanks to this constant evolution of black art, the 2010s saw the rise of female rappers to heights that were once thought unachievable. The Supremes shattered the glass ceiling and allowed many talented black women to follow them to the upper echelons of fame and acclaim in the American music industry.


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