I'm sure practically everyone here is sick and tired of The Woe Is Po' Flo Factor and the Diana Ross bashing that goes with it.
All these writers (inc the press, Mary Wilson, Mark Bego and The Dreamgirls team) have all sensationalized and capitalized on Florence Ballard's death for cash. As tragic as it was, Flo was ultimately to blame for her own demise.
Why don't people just give Diana Ross her fair due? If not for Berry Gordy's affections towards her combined with her drive, discipline, determination, X Factor, glamor, unique crossover pop sound and ability to captivate, The Supremes might not have been supreme at all.
The public and press at the time went bananas over that skinny girl with the sensual, cooing soprano, who gave every performance that extra punch. Miss Ross had flair, style and simply stood out.
Flo was a disturbed soul: emotionally unbalanced (rape victim), jealous, bitter, confrontational and lazy with zero charisma. As one of the Holland songwriters brothers said, "That girl needed a shrink."
Taking to the bottle, gaining weight, missing out on shows, lashing out at Ross both verbally and physically when the trio began to conquer the world, plus threatening Gordy and even throwing booze in his face in public -- well, not only is that plain stupid, it was pure ghetto. It was evident she became a liability to The Supremes and to Motown.
The Supremes meant everything to Motown and were breaking down doors for African-American entertainers with their widespread crossover success during a racially sensitive time in history.
The myth that Blondie (aka Flo) was robbed of her greater glory, and that she bore the voice of an Aretha Franklin is pure myth. She was no Effie in Dreamgirls either. Just listen to her solo post-Motown ABC recordings on Amazon.com. There is nothing outstanding about her vocal skills. Even her choreographed moves when she was with The Supremes were out of synch. She looked listless and overweight on stage and lacked that spark that both Ross and Wilson had.
Another myth is that Flo was THE lead singer. Not true. She may found the group, but as Smokey Robinson declared on CNN, "When they signed with Motown, Flo was never THE lead singer of The Supremes." They all shared leads until Gordy designated Ross as lead. Gordy did that -- not Ross. Ross, like all the Motown acts, were business products with Gordy making their business decisions.
No one ever makes a stink about a Marvelette or Miracle or Pip being replaced. No one bitches about how Michael Jackson was spotlighted over the other Jacksons. We don't hear bitchy stories about George Harrison or Ringo Star sucking out over John Lennon and Paul McCartney's dominance in The Beatles, or Gladys Knight being queen of her Pips, or Martha the ace in the Vandellas. Why does Ross always get bashed?
Chalking up 12 No. 1's in a mere span of 6 years, not to mention countless Top 40 hits with Ross as lead was not only an amazing feat, but the smartest artistic and business decision Gordy made. Again, Gordy decided this -- not Ross.
The only group to rival The Beatles and Elvis Presley and even surpassing The Rolling Stones, The Temptations and The Beach Boys -- now that's an historic feat. To think that could have happened by simply replacing Diana with Flo or Mary is nonsense. You don't mess with a formula that's churning out hit after hit and generating the big bucks for a fledgling independent record company.
Twas only 6 years before Ross left trio. Flo could have simply bit her lip and just road Ross's coat tails, and then take over as lead after Ross's departure. But no, she had to act out after a mere 3 or 4 years, and by acting out she was actually let go.
But alas ghetto is ghetto as exemplified with her signing away her rights to any future Supremes royalties and rights for a mere $200,000. Even subsequent litigation that could have yielded her more money years later was allegedly cut short by Flo herself, who went behind her law firm's back to cut a quick undisclosed cash settlement with Motown. Her reasoning: litigation was taking too long.
Dumb and destructive. That was Flo. Even without the fame and glory of being a star, Flo could have struck a new path in life as she was still in her 20's, but no, she like Wilson, opted to play victim and blame others for their fates in life. Did she not care enough of her kids to find a new job in life? Was her ego so fragile and fixated on her past glory that she was too proud to adapt and move on? What did she do with the settlements she got? Spend it on gifts and booze? Ghetto.
As Ross has said, it's important to take responsibility and not blame others for your course in life. In life you can be a survivor or wilt like a branch in the face of adversity. Ballard was of the latter breed.
And on a final note, why doesn't anyone ever mention how Ross secretly helped Flo financially during her rough times? Ditto with setting up a lucrative trust fund for her kids after Flo's death?
The world deserves a fair, objective and balanced insight into the legacy of The Supremes -- not fiction.
Let's hope Berry Gordy's forthcoming Motown Musical will help set the story straight. And let's pray Ross will confront this in her own tell-all, or a proper biopic on HER life.
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