It was 50 years ago tonight (January 14th, 1970) that Diana Ross gave her final performance as a member of the Supremes. The show took place at the Frontier Hotel in Las Vegas, and it was released the following April as the double-live album called Farewell. The show itself was emotional for all the Supremes, which at that time included original member Mary Wilson as well as Cindy Birdsong, who had replaced Florence Ballard in 1967. For fans, the split first seemed inevitable after Ballard's departure, when the group's name changed from the Supremes to Diana Ross & The Supremes.
The concert featured most of the group's hits, including “Love Is Here And Now You're Gone,” “Love Child,” and their recent Top Ten hit with the Temptations, “I'm Gonna Make You Love Me.” The show also included a medley of early hits featuring “Stop! In The Name Of Love,” “Come See About Me,” and “My World Is Empty Without You.”
Like all their concerts, the group ran through a few standards, such as Cole Porter's “The Lady Is A Tramp,” and featured covers of favorites like Frankie Valli's “Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You” and the 5th Dimension's hit medley from the Broadway musical Hair, “Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In.” The show closed with the Supremes' final Number One hit, “Someday We'll Be Together.” Afterward, Ross introduced Jean Terrell as her replacement as lead vocalist.
Diana Ross told us that she never takes for granted how lucky she is to have met Motown founder Berry Gordy Jr. who launched her and the Supremes' career: “To be able to do what I love to do, to be able to sing and to be able to travel, and to be able to wear beautiful clothes and stand on stage and somehow stand in front of an audience and do what I love to do — which was my life's gifts, my blessings, to be able to sing — Berry Gordy gave me that opportunity. Motown gave me the opportunity to shine.”
Mary Wilson admits that the years of being relegated to being a back-up singer in the group left her stunted as a vocalist. We asked her why she didn't think twice when Motown replaced Ross with Jean Terrell — rather than asking her to step up to front the group: “Because I didn't feel I had the talent to do so. I wasn't strong enough at the time to be the lead singer. I knew I needed to learn. Because during that time, from when we started, I was fine and had I been able to grow; I would have been okay. But what happened when we started, we were sort of relegated to the background parts, the 'ooohs and ahs,' well I basically stopped learning, stopped developing.”
On March 25th, 1983, Ross, Wilson, and Birdsong reunited for the taping of the Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever TV special, when they performed the song which closed their final concert as a trio, “Someday We'll Be Together” — a song that ironically neither Wilson nor Birdsong actually sang on. It was the last time all three shared the same stage.
Mary Wilson of The Supremes next performs on January 18th in Kissimmee, Florida at the KLK Celebration of Unity at Lakefront Park & Civil Lawn.