It was 45 years ago today (February 22nd, 1976) that Supremes' co-founder Florence Ballard died at the age of 32. The singer died of coronary thrombosis — a blood clot in one of her coronary arteries. She has been cited by many friends and peers from the early Motown era as being the strongest singer of the three original Supremes, which included Diana Ross and the late-Mary Wilson. Unfortunately for Ballard and Wilson, Motown chief Berry Gordy's plan to spotlight Ross on all of the group's singles pushed them into the roles of Ross' background singers.
Ballard was featured on several of the group's album cuts throughout the years, including “Buttered Popcorn” — which was the group's third single, “Ain't That Good News,” “Silent Night,” “Heavenly Father,” and her live solo spot, a cover of Barbra Streisand's “People.”
Not long before her death this past February 8th at the age of 76, Mary Wilson said she was amazed by Ballard's raw vocal talent and regrets that more people didn't recognize Ballard for her unique gift: “Florence actually was a great singer. In fact (laughs) every time I hear Etta James I think of Florence, because Florence had that same type of a voice as Etta James. And at a very young age. And had she lived, would've been really able to have really developed that style. I mean she would be like Aretha Franklin and Etta James today.”