Greatest Hits (1967)

Diana Ross And The Supremes Greatest Hits

“Now I see life for what it is…it’s not all dreams, it’s not all bliss…”

In August of 1967, fans of The Supremes were treated to a gorgeously-produced “best-of” compilation, featuring twenty classic tracks spread out over two albums.  The timing of Greatest Hits made perfect sense from a commercial standpoint, as the group was wrapping up another unprecedented hot streak.  Diana Ross, Mary Wilson, and Florence Ballard had recently scored a stunning tenth #1 pop hit with “The Happening” in May of ’67; the song served as the theme to the film of the same name, and was the fourth consecutive Supremes single to reach the summit of the pop chart.  Meanwhile, follow-up single “Reflections” had been released in July, and was on its way to the #2 spot.  Although the latter song was left off of the hits collection and held for a future album, the remaining twenty tracks consisted of the ten #1s, five other singles of varying chart success, and five popular b-sides.  The songs came packaged in a beautiful set, complete with liner notes by Broadway star Carol Channing and a fold-out poster featuring color portraits of each Supreme.

Supremes Pull Out Poster

But the timing of Greatest Hits makes sense for another reason; this career retrospective truly marked the end of an era for The Supremes, and officially opened the door to the group’s next chapter.  By the time the collection hit store shelves (credited, for the first time, to Diana Ross and The Supremes), Florence Ballard was out of the group; after a period of turmoil within The Supremes, the singer was replaced by Cindy Birdsong of Patti LaBelle and The Bluebelles.  Meanwhile, the group’s songwriting and producing team of Eddie Holland, Brian Holland, and Lamont Dozier was also breaking from Motown at the time, due to a dispute over money.  Holland-Dozier-Holland had penned every single song included on Greatest Hits; with the release of “When The Lovelight Starts Shining Through His Eyes” in 1963, the writers had created the perfect Supremes formula, and then evolved it in a series of crisp, clever productions with strong melodies and irresistible lyrics perfectly suited to Diana’s uncanny vocal precision.

The loss of both Ballard and the H-D-H team would result in monumental changes for The Supremes; Motown would show something of a lack of direction in the coming years as to the group’s musical releases.  Still, The Supremes remained the top female group in the world at the time of the Greatest Hits release, and it was an astounding success.  The double-LP became the group’s second #1 album on the Billboard 200, and remained in the top spot for a full five weeks.  Aside from a two-week stint by Bobbie Gentry, The Supremes were the only women to have a #1 pop album that year, and just as significantly, they were the only African-American performers to reach the summit in 1967.  The featured songs remain some of the best pop/soul songs ever written; even today, nobody can deny the power of “Stop! In The Name Of Love” or “You Keep Me Hangin’ On.”  The tracklist also traces the evolution of Ross, Wilson, and Ballard from eager, excited young singers to powerful, polished vocalists.  This is especially evident in the collection’s newest song, “The Happening” — a big, bouncy pop song created hundreds of miles from Detroit.

***

(NOTE: “The Happening” is the only new song to appear on Greatest Hits; the other inclusions can be found on previous Supremes albums releases, and are thus discussed in previous articles.)

The Happening:  For the 1967 #1 hit “Love Is Here And Now You’re Gone,” Holland-Dozier-Holland created a dramatic track in Los Angeles that sounded like a mini-movie musical, complete with spoken passages and swirling strings.  For the follow-up Supremes single, H-D-H went a step further, actually helping to craft the theme song to a Hollywood film.  The Happening was a 1967 comedy starring Anthony Quinn and a young Faye Dunaway, with music written by Frank DeVol (who’d already scored several films including Pillow Talk, Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte and Cat Ballou).  According to Lamont Dozier (in the liner notes to the 2000 box set The Supremes), “Frank DeVol had done the score of The Happening, and they called us to meet with him and see a print of the movie.  We wrote to his string part and cut it once in L.A., went back to Detroit to recut it because the L.A. rhythm guys couldn’t do what we wanted.”  With “The Happening,” H-D-H managed an incredible feat; they took DeVol’s fun, bouncy musical motifs and used them to create a compact pop song that ended up being far more successful than the actual film.  Opening with a fabulous cinematic intro (the “DAH-da-da-da, DAH-da-da-da” motif can be heard in DeVol’s popular composition “The Fuzz,” also featured on the film’s soundtrack), the song explodes into a swinging, splashy sing-along piece led by the vibrant vocal performances of Diana Ross, Mary Wilson, and Florence Ballard.  More than any recent single by The Supremes, “The Happening” makes use of all three singers, allowing Wilson and Ballard to deliver a forceful background line that becomes an essential hook; the song would not be the same without Mary and Florence belting “Beware The Happening!” throughout.  Ross leads the way with a brassy performance, her voice cutting right through the crowded instrumental and deftly delivering the song’s clever lyrics (I love the lines “I saw the light too late/When that fickle finger of fate/Yeah, came and broke my pretty balloon…”).  Diana was always a singer of incredible precision and crisp pronunciation, but around this time her voice began to pick up another texture, a breathy raspiness that lent an added soulfulness to her later Supremes recordings.  This added texture to her voice really benefits “The Happening” — on the surface, it’s a light, poppy song, but the lyrics are actually quite dark, and Diana’s tone works to bridge the two feelings.  Also, note the power and confidence in her voice here, particularly during the “Now I see life…” section at around 1:30 in.  Much credit for the song’s success must also go to that aforementioned Detroit rhythm section; James Jamerson grounds this recording with a spellbinding, skipping bassline (once you really listen to the bass on this song, you’ll never be able to ignore it again).  Although elements of the song are more dated than other Supremes hits (by virtue of the fact that it was born from a 1960s film score — also, listen for shades of Herb Alpert and The Tijuana Brass here), the recording remains an exciting and interesting addition to the group’s discography; there’s an irresistible energy to the single that still sounds fresh today.  (NOTE: The flipside to “The Happening” single was another song written by DeVol and H-D-H, called “All I Know About You.”  Although an instrumental version appears on the film’s soundtrack, the Supremes version was left off of Greatest Hits and the group’s other releases at the time.  It eventually surfaced again as a bonus track on the CD release of Reflections.)

***

After “The Happening,” Diana Ross and The Supremes would release just three more singles written and produced by H-D-H, bringing to an end arguably the most important partnership between artist and writer/producer in popular music history.  Dozier would later look back on the “golden years” with The Supremes: “Diana Ross is one of the most professional artists in the business…She was the best, and she will go down in history as one of the best…This particular recipe called the Supremes came together because everybody had the right elements, the right seasonings, and the right flavors to make it happen” (Diana Ross: A Biography, 180-1).  Nearly fifty years after its initial release, the double-LP Greatest Hits collection remains a delicious platter upon which to enjoy that recipe of perfection.

(Click on the picture below to see the complete tracklist for Greatest Hits.)

Supremes Greatest Hits Tracklist

 

Advertisements

About Paul

Album-by-album, track-by-track, a look at the entire Diana Ross discography...
This entry was posted in Compilation and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to Greatest Hits (1967)

  1. You mention 2 of my all-time Supremes songs in one paragraph! “Reflections” and “The Happening” – both of which still sound so vibrant and current. Question: I’ve never really seen any full/clear explanation why HDH and the Supremes parted ways – or why Diana didn’t work with them much as a solo star (just those disco songs at one point around 1978). What happened?

    • Paul says:

      Hey Lawrence,
      This is a quick summary from MOJO magazine, February 2009: “In 1968 HDH’s relationship with Berry Gordy and Motown came to a messy end with disagreements over what the trio were worth. Gordy offered them $100,000 a year each to stay but HDH didn’t accept and left. Both sides sued — Gordy for breach of contract and HDH for fraud and conspiracy, among other things. Settling out of court, HDH went on to found their Invictus/Hot Wax stable and scored several more hits.” HDH would start doing some work with Motown again in the mid-1970s, after the lawsuits were settled — that work included the two final Supremes albums (HIGH ENERGY and MARY, SCHERRIE & SUSAYE) and the unreleased songs for Diana.

  2. sansradio says:

    Well, Lawrence, the main reason they stopped working together is because HDH were in dispute with Motown and left the label in ’67. Years of acrimony and litigation followed. HDH, of course, started their own successful Invictus/Hot Wax labels; years later, they returned to the Motown fold.

    • oh thanks! never knew that – how sad though after all the success they brought the label that it ended that way

      • david h says:

        I read that they were promised stock in Motown , and then it didn’t happen and they had issue with royalties on their songs. I am surprised the founding members of Motown didn’t own stock in a company that they helped build.

    • Paul says:

      It does seem kind of poetic that once HDH began working with Motown independently in the 1970s, they ended up handling the final two Supremes albums!

    • Many years ago I read that HDH were quite happy at Motown and did not want to leave. It was friends and other people in the music industry that repeatedly told HDH that they were being underpaid and under appreciated that led to them leaving. Berry Gordy even warned them that if they started their own company, that they would spend more time running the business and less time writing songs.
      Does this sound familiar to any of you?

  3. david h says:

    just a quick point I found out, that songwriter RON MILLER was also a writer on THE HAPPENING but uncredited for some unknown reason. the story I got was Ron was at the hospital with his wife and new born baby and needed money to get home. he called BG and asked for a some funds and BG stated,” write me a song”, the end result was The Happening, which was actually based upon the birth of his daughter from her point of view. this song was also rumoured to be Flo’s last recording with the Supremes but actually In and Out Of Love is the last single to feature Florence although the Andantees are added in the mix. maybe one day we will get a new mix of the song with the original backing vocals of Flo and Mary.
    also at the time, Reflections was going to be the last single for the group and Diana would go solo soon afterwards, Flo was going to be brought back for a farewell tour but none of this happened and Diana stayed in the group until their contract was up January 13 1970.
    I am surprised that two of their best B sides Mother Dear and Going Down For The Third Time were not included? especially since Mother Dear was considered for an A side at one point. but I suppose they wanted to keep it at just 20 tracks
    thanks I needed a supremes fix today.

  4. david h says:

    Paul, Andy Skurow told me about the story and I think it was also on a radio interview he did regarding one of the last Supremes releases.

    • Paul says:

      David — that is so interesting! Wonder why Ron Miller never got any kind of credit? Or how he even got involved, considering the song came from DeVol’s film score?

  5. david h says:

    just checked my email from Andy to confirm, yes he wrote it regarding the birth of his daughter Dawn ,but was uncredited. didn’t explain that part of it.

  6. Jimi LaLumia says:

    great as always, but neglected is the fact that The Supremes were the biggest U..S. recording group of the 1960’s (male OR female), and the ONLY U.S. recording group to ever score 12 #1 singles on the pop chart…EVER…

    • Paul says:

      Thank you for noting. Once I’m finished going through each Ross-led Supremes album, I’ll likely be writing up an essay that relates the group’s incredible chart statistics and cultural impact. As of now, I’m attempting to remain focused on the content of each album.

  7. david h says:

    Paul, just want to say Thank You again for your blog……I enjoy reading your posts

    • Paul says:

      THANK YOU so much for saying this — it really makes my day. Comments from faithful readers like you are the reason I’ve kept this going as long as I have.

  8. Pingback: Greatest Hits Volume 3 | THE DIANA ROSS PROJECT

  9. Pingback: At Their Best (1978) | THE DIANA ROSS PROJECT

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s