Diana Ross: 10 of the best career-defining songs by 'The Boss' as she turned 80

BD Diana Ross 2

Diana Ross, who turned 80 on March 26, 2024, has enjoyed an enduring career. PHOTO | SHUTTERSTOCK

The story is told of a girl born into poverty in Detroit, Michigan in 1944. As a 16-year-old she was hired as a secretary at the iconic Motown Records and that became her ticket to an extraordinary career. Diana Ross, who turned 80 on March 26, 2024 has enjoyed an enduring career; from lead singer of the 1960s all-girl group the Supremes, to a phenomenal solo career that has embraced soul, disco, and pop.

Even after six decades in the business, there is no slowing down “The Boss”, as she is fondly known; begins the Beautiful Love Performances – Legacy 2024 Tour across North America in May. The BDLife celebrates a milestone for an entertainer whose influence has transcended generations, with a playlist of 10 definitive songs.

Baby Love (1964)

As the lead singer of the female trio with the matching gowns and beehive hairdos, Diana Ross’s cooing, the swinging harmonies and the foot stomps make for an infectious song that typified the Motown sound. The single topped the US pop charts for four weeks in October/November 1964 and was the second of five consecutive US chart toppers for the Supremes. By the end of the decade, they had hit the top of the Billboard Hot 100 a record 12 times.

You Can’t Hurry Love (1966)

Another gem from the golden era of the Supremes based on a mother’s words of encouragement telling her daughter that with patience she will eventually meet someone special one day. The group’s seventh number one hit topping the US Billboard charts in September 1966. Phil Collins recorded a cover version in 1982 staying true to the original bouncy sound.

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough (1970)

This was a cover of a song originally recorded as a duet by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell and became her breakthrough solo hit after leaving the Supremes. She was initially apprehensive about doing her version, but was eventually convinced and the song was transformed into a stirring gospel-influenced arrangement with classical strings, horns and spoken word passages.

Theme from Mahogany (Do You Know Where You’re Going To) (1975)

Theme song from the 1975 film directed by Motown boss Berry Gordy and starring Diana Ross, as a poor African American woman, Tracy Chambers, later called Mahogany, who rises to become a popular supermodel and fashion designer. This was Ross’s second big film appearance after her role in Lady Sings the Blues in 1972. There have been renditions by Mariah Carey in 1998 and Jennifer Lopez in 1999.

Love Hangover (1976)

During the recording of the song, the producer Hal Davis instructed the studio engineer to install a strobe light so that Ross could be in a disco mindset. She gets into that lively mood with her adlibs as the song transitions from a ballad to an up-tempo dance track.

The single made the top spot of the US Billboard Hot 100 and established Diana Ross as a bona fide disco diva. She performed the song during a surprise appearance on Beyonce’s Renaissance World Tour last September.

Endless Love (duet with Lionel Richie) (1980)

The theme song from the film Endless Love is the biggest-selling single of Ross’s career and set the yardstick by which future pop duets would be judged. The chemistry between the two voices blended perfectly and that is why the song has remained a timeless romantic anthem. Luther Vandross and Mariah Carey recorded an almost identical remake in 1994.

BD Diana Ross

Diana Ross, who turned 80 on March 26, 2024, has enjoyed an enduring career. PHOTO | SHUTTERSTOCK

Missing You (1984)

A poignant tribute to Motown legend Marvin Gaye after he was murdered by his father in 1984. The song was written and produced by Lionel Richie, who also sang background vocals, after conversations about Gaye that he shared with Ross. The video is interspersed with heartwarming footage of Marvin Gaye on stage with Ross

Upside Down (1980)

Her biggest disco anthem and a staple on many radio stations around the world to date. Diana Ross disliked the result of the sessions with Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards of Chic, so she reworked the recording with Motown chief engineer Russ Terrana to downplay the funky instrumentation and give her voice more prominence.

I’m Coming Out (1980)

Another dance gem produced by the duo of Rodgers and Edwards from the album Diana.

The song’s message resonated with Ross who was leaving Motown after almost 20 years to sign with RCA Records (she returned to the label as a part owner in 1989). The catchy trombone solo towards the end of the song was played by American Meco Monardo as a favour to his neighbour Nile Rodgers.

Chain Reaction (1985)

An upbeat pop song with an infectious sing-along chorus written and produced by the Bee Gees with the distinctive falsetto of Barry Gibb on background vocals. The sound, style and even the black and white scenes in the video are a spectacular tribute to the Diana Ross’s Motown past.

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