There truly “ain’t no mountain high enough” for Diana Ross, the legendary diva who was the lead singer of Motown’s most successful act and later forged a solo career that cemented her status as a pop culture icon. She was named a Kennedy Center Honoree in 2007 and was awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016.
The lady will sing the blues — plus a little bit of everything else — when she brings her In the Name of Love Tour to the Walt Disney Theater on June 27 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets start at $49.50.
Ross, who was born in Detriot, rose to fame as the lead singer of The Supremes, which during the ’60s notched a record-setting dozen No. 1 singles on the Billboard Hot 100, including “Where Did Our Love Go,” “Baby Love,” “Come See About Me,” “Stop! In the Name of Love,” “You Can’t Hurry Love,” “You Keep Me Hangin’ On,” “Love Child” and “Someday We’ll Be Together.”
Is there a boomer alive for whom at least some of these songs aren’t personally significant? No, we didn’t think so.
But, as it turned out, Ross was just getting started. She achieved more success after 1970, when she left The Supremes and released an eponymous album that contained “Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand)” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” which became her first solo No. 1 single. Another chart-topper, “Touch Me in the Morning,” followed in 1973. That same year, Ross released the soundtrack of her debut film, Lady Sings the Blues, based upon the tragic life of jazz singer Billie Holiday. The album, which eventually sold more than 2 million copies, is perhaps most memorable for a cover of “Strange Fruit,” a haunting commentary about racism and lynching that Holiday recorded in 1939. Lady Sings the Blues was nominated for five Oscars, including Best Actress in a Leading Role for Ross. She also starred in Mahogany (1975), the soundtrack of which yielded another No. 1 hit, “Theme from Mahogany (Do You Know Where You’re Going To?).”
In 1976, with the 20th century only slightly more than three-quarters finished, Billboard magazine named Ross its Female Entertainer of the Century. Although the award seemed premature at the time, the multifaceted artist continued to earn the accolade in the decades to come. In 1978, Ross starred as Dorothy in The Wiz, an urban reimagining of L. Frank Baum’s classic 1900 children’s novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The all African-American cast also featured Michael Jackson, Nipsey Russell, Lena Horne and Richard Pryor. Although The Wiz wasn’t initially a commercial success, it later became a cult classic.
Ross recorded “Endless Love,” her last single for Motown, in 1980. The duet with Lionel Ritchie, the title track for a film starring Brooke Shields, received an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song. Shortly thereafter, RCA offered Ross an unprecedented $20 million recording contract, prompting her to part ways with Berry Gordy’s groundbreaking label.
Ross continued to record hits, star in television specials, tour the world and make high-profile appearances such as a storm-shortened 1983 concert in New York’s Central Park that drew some 800,000 fans. In 1985, she was featured on “We Are the World,” a USA for Africa charity single that sold more than 20 million copies worldwide. In 1988, Ross was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of The Supremes, alongside original members Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard.
“The Supremes were America’s ingénues, exuding a stylish charm and soulfulness that appealed across the board to black and white listeners at a time when racial divides were coming down,” wrote Hall officials in an induction announcement. “They earned a place in music history as singers and showgirls whose popularity in the ’60s was second only to the Beatles.” In 1993, the Guinness Book of World Records declared Ross the most successful female music artist in history, with a total of 70 hit singles and 100 million records sold between her work with The Supremes and as a solo artist. Incredibly, although she’s a 12-time Grammy nominee, Ross has never actually won a Grammy for a specific recording. (She did, however, receive a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012.)
Ross recently finished an extended engagement at The Venetian in Las Vegas, where reviewers were dazzled.
“She sings and smiles beautifully, reciting her songs as if each show is her last,” wrote the Las Vegas Review Journal. “‘Upside Down’ and a show-closing ‘I Will Survive’ gets the crowd grooving every time. And, as anticipated, Ross dresses the part. Her Swarovski-splashed gowns, especially the gleaming white number at the end of the show, are truly staggering.”
Gaming Today agreed: “The divine Diana Ross was a symbol of the quintessential diva at The Venetian. This woman is incredible. Her singing, performance, stage presence, fashions — all one of a kind.”
From artsLife Summer 2017