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Diana Ross

Ain't no valley low enough

Diana Ross

Web posted on:
Friday, May 14, 1999 5:22:02 PM EST

From Michael Okwu
CNN Entertainment News Correspondent

NEW YORK (CNN) -- As the supreme Supreme, she rose to the top of the charts 12 times. On her own, she had eight No. 1 hits, according to Billboard. And she managed to make the transition to the big screen, winning an Academy Award nomination and a Golden Globe as Billie Holiday in "Lady Sings the Blues."

Now, after a five-year musical hiatus, Diana Ross has a new album out from Motown -- "Every Day is a New Day" -- and she's starring in the ABC film "Double Platinum" as a singer who leaves her child to pursue a career.

Ross' first CD in five years coincides with the break-up of her 13-year marriage to Norwegian shipping magnate Arne Naess. Her music and acting, she says, have given her solace.

"I think the album really is about -- it's a reflection of where I am and (where) I've been for the last year or so in my life," says Ross. "I choose my songs that way because I become the lyric. I mean, I live the songs before I record them."

And while she may look like the stuff divas are made of, Ross is remarkably unassuming and reflective while musing about her life and her latest CD with its dance tunes and love-centric ballads.

She has reason for optimism: Her previous album, the 1994 "One Woman: The Ultimate Collection," released in the United Kingdom, has gone triple-platinum.

Now, with the release of her new album of ballads and dance tunes, Ross might hope to follow Cher's lead with a comeback she can "Believe" in.

MULTIMEDIA

"Carry On"
[235k MPEG-3] or [325k WAV]

(From Motown Records)

Second only to the Fab Four

While prolifically successful as a solo artist, Ross first found fame as part of, and eventually the frontwoman for, The Supremes.

Originally a quartet called the Primettes -- including Ross, Florence Ballard, Mary Wilson and Barbara Martin -- they signed with Motown in 1960, and a year later changed their name. Martin's departure left the group a trio.

For some eight years, The Supremes indeed reigned.

Reaching the tops of charts a dozen times, they're ranked second only to the Beatles (20 times) for number of No. 1 hits achieved by a duo or group, according to Billboard.

In 1967, the group changed its name to Diana Ross and The Supremes, and Ballard was replaced by ex-Bluebell Cindy Birdsong. After The Supremes' last hit in 1969, "Someday We'll Be Together," Ross exited to pursue a solo career.

Although The Supremes soldiered on, with Jean Terrell replacing Ross in 1970, the group officially disbanded in 1977.

On her own, Ross released a number of hits, including "I'm Coming Out," her duet with Lionel Richie "Missing You" and "Upside Down." All told, she hit No. 1 eight times, according to Billboard. In 1995, she received the Heritage Award for Career Achievement at the ninth annual Soul Train Music Awards.

The other Supremes were less successful after the group's collapse.

According to her official Web site, Wilson toured Canada for a year with the play "Beehive," about a girl group. She made her off-Broadway debut in "Grandma Sylvia's Funeral." She's written two books about her tenure with the all-girl supergroup: "Dreamgirl: My Life as a Supreme" and "Supreme Faith: Someday We'll be Together."

Ballard ended up on welfare and died in 1976.

Ross with Brandy in their ABC TV movie

Career shift

Ross made her film debut in 1972, playing blues singer Billie Holiday in "Lady Sings the Blues" and getting an Oscar nomination. Since then, she's starred in 1975's "Mahogany" and 1977's "The Wiz."

As executive producer and star of ABC's "Double Platinum," Ross has played a part behind the camera. In the drama, which airs on May 16, she plays a singer who sacrifices motherhood for her career and tries to become reacquainted with the daughter she left behind. The role of the daughter is played by Brandy, with whom Ross is to sing a duet -- "Love Is All That Matters," written by Diane Warren.

Ross says her producing work is part of her effort to take charge of her career.

"I see this with my own children, too, how they decide what they want to do ... being able to be in charge of their own destiny which is so great. Again I was reminded that I don't really think I took charge of my life until I was about 35," she says.

'In one of those valley times'

Today, Ross says she's taking her life one day at a time. She'd like to reach out to developing artists, she says.

"I was looking at making a shift in my career. I've been so blessed I'd like to be able to give that back. If I could find young artists, young performers I can nurture to have a career I would really like that," says Ross.

So where is Diana Ross in her life?

"I'm not sure. I'm really not sure. I think we go through peaks and valleys in our lifetime and I'm in one of those valley times, you know," she says.

"But right now, I gotta take a deep breath, take one step at a time and figure out what I want to do."



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Motown: Diana Ross
ABC-TV's 'Double Platinum'
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