The Supremes’ Profound Effect on Popular Music – The Oracle

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

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

Photo taken from the Naples Daily NewsMary Wilson was a founding member of The Supremes, as well as a leading bestselling author and 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 neighborhood connections, found themselves doing backing vocals on records of more established Motown singers. Eventually Barbara Martin replaced McGlown and thus, 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 would number 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 shimmering dresses covered in pearls and crystals, the big hair up to eleven years old and their ballroom queen aesthetic, pushed by the marketing genius and Motown founder known as Berry Gordy Jr.

Later Disco movements, 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 have 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 a surge in popularity. TLC and Destiny’s Child were both considered worthy successors that 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 once thought unattainable. 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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