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The Supremes: A Saga of Motown Dreams, Success, and Betrayal Hardcover – June 30, 2009


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press (June 30, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0306815869
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306815867
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #100,688 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Biographer of Phil Spector (He's a Rebel), among others, Ribowsky takes a dishy, insider look at Berry Gordy's making of the Supremes, with some nasty swipes at Diana Ross while elevating Flo Ballard as the trio's martyr. In his detailed look at how Berry engineered his Motown empire, thanks to his smart sisters and a lot of luck and fortuitous pairing of talent, Ribowsky nicely intersperses some hindsight reflections by the main players, such as the brothers Brian and Eddie Holland of the legendary songwriting team with Lamont Dozier, with comparative accounts by Mary Wilson, Ross and others in order to sift the truth from the legend. While the author constantly snipes at Ross for her popping eyes and naked ambition, it was largely her single-minded drive that garnered attention to the trio's early incarnation as the Primettes, and her high girl-woman singing voice that established the Supremes' distinctive sound. Moreover, Ross's influence on Gordy (and his faith in her future solo stardom) motivated him to keep pushing the group into the limelight, in spite of other girl groups that had a bigger top hit following, such as Martha Reeves and the Vandellas. In this engaging, vivacious account, Ribowsky energetically and thoroughly underscores the Supremes' significance as one of the first crossover successes. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

A Finalist for the 2010 Association for Recorded Sound Collections Awards for Excellence in Historical Recorded Sound Research for the “Best Research in Recorded Rock and Pop Music” category. 

Publishers Weekly
, 5/18/09

“A dishy, insider look at Berry Gordy’s making of the Supremes…Ribowsky nicely intersperses some hindsight reflections by the main players…In this engaging, vivacious account, Ribowsky energetically and thoroughly underscores the Supremes’ significance as one of the first crossover successes.”

Booklist, 06/01/09
“[Ribowsky] retells the familiar story of how [Berry] Gordy’s fiefdom became ‘Hitsville USA,’ recording a good deal of attributed dissent—always a treat in a pop-music history. Equally illuminating are the stuff about the individual Supremes’ travails and tidbits about the interactions of Motown legends like Smokey Robinson and Marvin Gaye regarding the material Gordy wanted them to perform and the rivalries and peccadilloes of such vaunted Motown production teams as Holland-Dozier-Holland…Illuminating and salacious in the best possible ways.”

Booklist, 6/1/09
“[Ribowsky] retells the familiar story of how [Berry] Gordy’s fiefdom became ‘Hitsville USA,’ recording a good deal of attributed dissent—always a treat in a pop-music history. Equally illuminating are the stuff about the individual Supremes’ travails and tidbits about the interactions of Motown legends like Smokey Robinson and Marvin Gaye…Illuminating and salacious in the best possible ways.”

Library Journal, 6/5/09
“A comprehensive look at the tumultuous relationships within the Supremes as well as among others at the Motown label…Ribowsky’s original interviews with members from such other Motown acts as the Temptations’ Otis Williams and the Marvelettes’ Katherine Anderson, and some Motown myth-debunking add a distinctive flavor. Recommended for readers who have a casual interest in popular music or Motown.”

African American Family, 6/2009
“[Ribowsky] unearths the incredible, real-life drama of Motown’s biggest female stars…An extensively researched history of one of the most successful female musical groups of all time.”

St. Petersburg Times, 6/14/09 & South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 6/21/09
“Ribowsky dishes up the inside story of the queens of ‘60s girl groups and their role in Berry Gordy’s Motown empire. Diana Ross’ distinctive voice and driving ambition are central to the story.”

New York Post, 6/28/09
“Juicy little details about the Supremes' nasty hatefulness toward one another actually reveal the group's true devotion. As Ballard once revealed to a reporter about The Supremes, ‘We all wear engagement rings—we're married to Motown.’”

Q, August 2009
“[A] beautifully written, harrowing tale.”

WYNC Soundcheck, 7/9/09
“[A] dishy new book…There is much to dislike in the story of Diana Ross and the Supremes, but there is also something underneath it all, a subtext about the power of music to bridge even the most troubling divides.”

London Sunday Times, 7/5/09
“It seems extraordinary that there has never been a serious biography dedicated to the Supremes before now. They achieved more than enough to deserve a shelf full…The rags-to-riches story of the Supremes is almost as captivating as their music…[A] diligently researched biography.”

Deseret News, 7/5/09
“Ribowsky writes about the ambition and greed and deception that ultimately split the Supremes. But he also writes of their rags-to-riches journey and their business savvy in an industry long dominated by men.”

Blurt Online, 7/7/09
“Ribowsky's book corrects a grave injustice—the previous lack of any full scale biography of the Supremes, the most successful girl group of the 1960s…No one had previously tackled the Supremes story from an objective point of view…Ribowsky's tale fully lives up to the book's subtitle…Ribowsky does a good job of untangling the group's early, pre-Motown days, as well as balancing the numerous conflicting accounts of events…A most bittersweet look at what can happen when dreams come true.”

A.V. Club, 7/9/09
“Michael Jackson’s death is another reminder of the richness and depth of the Motown Records saga. But the greatest story of the label’s ’60s heyday is still that of The Supremes…Dirt keeps popping up, and there’s more than enough of it, old and new, to keep Phil Spector biographer Mark Ribowsky going in his new book…He sorts through conflicting multiple sources with the zeal of a true fan, albeit one who doesn’t make excuses for Ross’ diva excesses.”

St. Petersburg Times, 7/9/09
“Working from extensive interviews with their Motown contemporaries and others, Ribowsky traces the Supremes' public and personal lives…Between the dish, the book provides a detailed, musically astute account of how the Supremes' hits were made and marketed.”

TheFirstPost.co.uk, 7/7/09
“Gives a hint of Diane (her real name) Ross’s character.”

WTVF Talk of the Town, 7/7/09
“[A] wonderfully written true story about one of the best groups ever…The real story of why and how The Supremes had more hits than any other group in the 1960s except for the Beatles and Elvis.”

Hemispheres, July 2009
“With his well-wrought new biography, Mark Ribowsky gives Detroit girls their due.”

Buffalo News, 7/12/09
“The Supremes is as much about Gordy and his empire as it is about the most successful singing trio in history; rightly so, as their histories are so intricately intertwined that one couldn’t exist without the other…[A] nuanced, heartbreaking portrait of [Flo] Ballard…In telling Ballard’s story unsparingly, Ribowsky lifts his book from celebrity journalism to tragedy.”

Bookgasm.com, 7/14/09
“Ribowsky charts the Supremes’ meteoric rise and bitter disintegration…Combining personal testimony, history, and expert analysis, Ribowsky not only tells the full, heartbreaking story of the Supremes, but shows why Gordy’s revolutionary concept of ‘blacks singing white’ was essential to the modern evolution of music.”

Austin Chronicle, 7/17/09
“By the ‘Where Did Our Love Go?’ epilogue of Mark Ribowsky's sleek The Supremes, you'll never hear one of the vocal trio's 12 No. 1 smashes the same again…[Ribowsky’s] 20-deep bibliography of label documentation attests to his thoroughness.”

Denver Post, 6/21/09
“Ribowsky uses recollections from friends, families and Motown contemporaries to tell the story of the legendary singing group’s meteoric rise and bitter falling apart.”

Marco Island Eagle, 7/22/09; Elkin Tribune, 7/20/09
“You’ll get a good look at the women—and the men—that started a music revolution…Filled with stories of astounding chutzpah, betrayal, back-stabbing and deviousness, The Supremes is a scandal-lover’s delight…A well-researched account…If “Baby Love” and “Love Child” have always been in your background, you shouldn’t miss this book. For diehard fans, The Supremes should be at the front of the reading list.”

WNTI Radio, 7/24/09
“The first comprehensive biography of the most successful female vocal group of all time…Ribowsky has written the definitive account of a magical time in American music…The author shares first-hand intimate recollections from those that knew the Supremes best…The Supremes is the complete, sometimes heartbreaking account of three girls from the Detroit projects, their meteoric rise and bitter disintegration and their place in the history of popular music. One of the best music books written in 2009.”

Popmatters.com, 7/29/09
“The story behind one of the most successful musical acts ever…is an intriguing one, a genuine all-American, rags-to-riches tale, complete with villains, victims and heroes, as well as a messy unraveling that rivals anything seen on Behind the Music…Ribowsky’s skillful retelling of how Motown founder Berry Gordy Jr. built an empire from scratch is a gripping read…With Ribowsky’s attention to detail, the humble, and seedy, roots of Motown come alive, as he puts us smack-dab in the middle of Detroit’s mean streets.”

Blogcritics.org, 7/30/09
“Ribowsky does a terrific job of…setting the record straight…[Ribowsky] treats his subjects in a mostly fair and even-handed way. He also spares little in the way of dishing the often dirty details, which makes this book a real page turner…Provides an inside look into the creation of all those great Supremes records…As a no-holds-barred, insiders look into the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of one of the biggest acts in pop music history, The Supremes: A Saga of Motown Dreams, Success, and Betrayal is a fascinating read. It is also an essential one for any student of pop music history.”

Sacramento Book Review, 7/30/09
“The truly interesting tale of the Supremes before we knew them.”

Augusta Metro Spirit, 7/29/09
“A stunning look...


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Customer Reviews

I don't like the way author writes.
Very Wealthy 999
Diana's incorporating part of the Miracles routine into the Supremes act was during the Motortown Revue, not after the first Ed Sullivan Show appearance.
Jim Najjar
Very engaging book - I couldn't put it down.
Kevin S. O'Donnell

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Jim Najjar on July 5, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Mr.Ribowsky's deserves credit in his approach of reconstructing the very early days of The Supremes history and his ability to tie in all the persons and events that led to them becoming the most successful female vocal group in American musical history. In his original approach he sought the assistance of Florence Ballard's cousin Ray Gibson and other sources other biographers did not. Often he relies on and quotes from the other biographers and compares/disputes their findings. At times he allows his superb writing skills to soar, but often he is vulgar in his dishing the trio. Diana...spreading her legs,Mary...performs like a mannequin...Florence...had psychiatric problems. Other asperisons are credited to The Marvelettes, The Vandellas and The Velvelettes and one feels like this is tabloid fodder. Worse are the numerous editorial flaws including a word for word comment that at one point in both the Motortown Revue and Dick Clark Caravan of Stars Tour two police cars helped prevent a potential racially motivated attack on the stars. Others include:
1) The unrealeased There's A Place For Us album was never released; yet it was and he mentions so in the discography.
2) He refrers to biographer Tony Turner as Tony Tucker, then correctly in the Biblography; perhaps because he is confused as he refers to Turner as a flunky, a go-fer and even a drag queen.
3) Diana's incorporating part of the Miracles routine into the Supremes act was during the Motortown Revue, not after the first Ed Sullivan Show appearance.
4) Yes, Florence is in the picture with Hubert Humprhey however she had already left the group in 1968.
5) Diana was 21 years old in 1965, when the Motortown Revue was recorded in Paris.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By R. M. Desjardins on July 17, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In the introduction of The Supremes: A Saga of Motown Dreams, Success and Betrayal, author Mark Ribowsky states his goal is to write the "first real biography of the group written from the perspective of an outsider with no personal investment in how events are told." Being the most recent chronologist to sort out the story of the Supremes, he has the advantage of being able to draw liberally from the many volumes written on the subject by the subjects, Diana Ross, Mary Wilson, and Berry Gordy themselves, plus the luxury of having the previously silent song writing team, Holland-Dozier-Holland as well as Florence Ballard's relatives add to the call and response chorus.
The story of the rise and fall of the Supremes is so old, and has been told in such minute detail in the past that it should, and in an indirect way as Dreamgirls on Broadway and on screen, have been set to music a long time ago. Ribowsky offers detailed new revelations on the fledging Primettes and their manager Milton Jenkins, who would eventually become Florence Ballard's brother in law. In short order, Jenkins is left behnd, the young quartet loses a member, and Berry Gordy's vision of a crossover act sets the stage for the morphing of the popular local group into what would become the world famous Supremes. All that remained to happen was getting that one evasive hit record. Gordy's maintained his faith in the appeal of Diana Ross through several lean years and when The Supremes finally hit the motherlode, everyone's wildest dreams were far exceeded.
Unfortunately, as the saga of the Supremes unfolds, factual errors, misspellings, and inconsistencies creep into Ribowsky's research, taking away from his masterful story telling.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Rick A. Bueche on August 16, 2009
Format: Hardcover
In yet another belated attempt to cash-in on the Dreamgirls phenomenon, Mark Ribowsky quickly proves himself a second-rate writer with this horrifically inaccurate, details-bare accounting of the legend of the Supremes.

As expected, Diana Ross comes across as a cruel, manipulative, heartless shrew of a woman, while Florence Ballard is portrayed as misunderstood, misrepresented and tragic. Mary Wilson, for a bit of a change, and for whatever reason, reads as being clueless, cold and co-dependant. This book draws heavily from previous books by J. Randy Taraborrelli, Tony Turner (whom Mr. Ribowsky continually refers to as "Tucker")and Miss Wilson herself. There is virtually nothing new here but one easily recognizes Ribowsky's lack of attention to detail when he can't even get the names of the authors he is plagiarizing correctly.

There are literally dozens of misrepresented facts throughout the book. The discographies are painfully wrong, details of confrontations are re-told with no source indicated and numerous other allegations are easily disproven in this National Enquirer-like retelling of a story. In one such instance, Ribowsky claims the husband-abused body of Florence Ballard was laid out in a casket with bruises on her legs. There are photos everywhere showing Miss Ballard lying in repose in a floor-length choir robe...only her shoes were showing therefore refuting this tabloid allegation.

That is only one of many inaccuracies in this book. It is a cheap attempt to make a few bucks at the expense of the tragedy of Florence Ballard and the legacy of the most successful female group of all time. Not worth even the bargain-basement price.

RICK BUECHE
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