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The Four Tops' story is one of longevity and togetherness: these Motown legends teamed up in high school and spent over four decades without a single personnel change. In between, they became one of the top-tier acts on a label with no shortage of talent, ranking with the Temptations and the Supremes as Motown's most consistent hitmakers. Where many other R&B vocal groups spotlighted a tenor-range lead singer, the Four Tops were fronted by deep-voiced Levi Stubbs, who never cut a solo record outside of the group. Stubbs had all the grit of a pleading, wailing, gospel-trained soul belter, but at the same time, the Tops' creamy harmonies were smooth enough for Motown's radio-friendly pop-soul productions.


From 1964-1967, the Four Tops recorded some of the Holland-Dozier-Holland team's greatest compositions, including "Reach Out, I'll Be There," "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)," "Standing in the Shadows of Love," "Bernadette," and "Baby I Need Your Loving." The group's fortunes took a downturn when their chief source of material left the label, but they enjoyed a renaissance in the early '70s, which saw them switching to the ABC-Dunhill imprint. Regardless of commercial fortunes, they kept on performing and touring, scoring the occasional comeback hit. The Four Tops began life in 1953 (some accounts say 1954), when all of the members were attending Detroit-area high schools. Levi Stubbs and Abdul "Duke" Fakir went to Pershing, and met Northern students Renaldo "Obie" Benson and Lawrence Payton at a friend's birthday party, where the quartet members first sang together. Sensing an immediate chemistry, they began rehearsing together and dubbed themselves the Four AimsPayton's cousin Roquel Davis, a budding songwriter who sometimes sang with the group during its early days, helped them get an audition with Chess Records in 1956. Although Chess was more interested in Davis, who went on to become Berry Gordy's songwriting partner, they also signed the Four Aims, who became the Four Tops to avoid confusion with the Ames Brothers. The Four Tops' lone Chess single, "Kiss Me Baby," was an unequivocal flop, and the group moved on to similarly brief stints at Red Top and Riverside. They signed with Columbia in 1960 and were steered in a more upscale supper-club direction, singing jazz and pop standards. This too failed to break them, although they did tour with Billy Eckstine during this period. In 1963, the Four Tops signed with longtime friend Berry Gordy's new label, specifically the jazz-oriented Workshop subsidiary.

They completed a debut LP, to be called Breaking Through, but Gordy scrapped it and switched their style back to R&B, placing them on Motown with the Holland-Dozier-Holland songwriting team. After a full decade in existence, the Four Tops finally notched their first hit in 1964 with "Baby I Need Your Loving," which just missed the pop Top Ten. Early 1965 brought the follow-up ballad hit "Ask the Lonely," and from then on there was no stopping them. "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)" went all the way to number one that spring, and the follow-up "It's the Same Old Song" reached the Top Five. The hits continued into 1966, with "Something About You" "Shake Me, Wake Me (When It's Over)," and "Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever" all coming in succession. The fall of 1966 brought the group's masterpiece in the form of the virtual soul symphony "Reach Out, I'll Be There"; not only did it become their second number one pop hit, it also wound up ranking as the creative peak of the group's career and one of Motown's finest singles ever. During this period, the Tops also earned a reputation as one of Motown's best live acts, having previously honed their performances for years before hitting the big time. The Four Tops kicked off 1967 with the dramatic Top Ten smash "Standing in the Shadows of Love," which was followed by the Top Five "Bernadette." "7-Rooms of Gloom" and "You Keep Running Away" reached the Top 20, but toward the end of the year, Holland-Dozier-Holland left Motown over a financial dispute, which didn't bode well for the Four Tops' impressive hit streak. Their next two hits, 1968's "Walk Away Renee" and "If I Were a Carpenter," were both covers of well-known recent songs (by the Left Banke and Tim Hardin, respectively), and while both made the Top 20, they heralded a rough couple of years when top-drawer material was in short supply. They enjoyed a resurgence in 1970 under producer Frank Wilson, who helmed a hit cover of the Tommy Edwards pop standard "It's All in the Game" and a ballad co-written by Smokey Robinson"Still Water (Love)." The Tops also recorded with the post-Diana Ross Supremes, scoring a duet hit with a cover of "River Deep, Mountain High" in 1971. When Motown moved its headquarters to Los Angeles in 1972, the Four Tops parted ways with the company, choosing to remain in their hometown of Detroit. They signed with ABC-Dunhill and were teamed with producers/songwriters Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter, who did their best to re-create the group's trademark Motown sound. The immediate result was "Keeper of the Castle," the Four Tops' first Top Ten hit in several years.

They followed it in early 1973 with "Ain't No Woman (Like the One I've Got)," a gold-selling smash that proved to be their final Top Five pop hit. That year they also recorded the theme song to the film Shaft in Africa"Are You Man Enough." Several more R&B chart hits followed over the next few years, with the last being 1976's "Catfish"; after a final ABC album in 1978, the Tops largely disappeared from sight before resurfacing on Casablanca in 1981. Incredibly, their first single, "When She Was My Girl," went all the way to number one on the R&B charts, just missing the pop Top Ten. The accompanying album, Tonight!, became their last to hit the Top 40. The Four Tops rejoined Motown in 1983, the year of the company's 25th anniversary, and toured extensively with the Temptations. They also recorded a couple albums of new material that failed to sell well, and wound up leaving Motown amid confusion over proper musical direction. Meanwhile, Levi Stubbs provided the voice for Audrey the man-eating plant in the film version of Little Shop of Horrors. The Four Tops next caught on with Arista, where in 1988 they scored their last Top 40 pop hit, the aptly titled "Indestructible." The Four Tops were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990, and continued to tour the oldies circuit. In 1997, Lawrence Payton passed away due to cancer of the liver, which proved to be the only thing that could break up the Four Tops. After some consideration, the remaining members hired Theo Peoples to take Payton's place on tour

Source: Steve Huey, Rovi

This information is provided as a brief overview and not as a definitive guide, there are other sources on the net for that. If however you have a story or information that is not generally known we would love to hear from you.

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Renowned for the R&B hits "Just to Be Close to You," "Easy," and "Brickhouse," to name but a few, the Commodores were one of the top bands during their long tenure at Motown. The group is credited with seven number one songs and a host of other Top Ten hits on the Billboard charts, and their vast catalog includes more than 50 albums.

The members of the Commodores, all of whom attended Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, came together as a result of two groups disbanding: the Mystics and the Jays. Initially formed to simply play music as a pastime and to meet girls, the lineup consisted of William King (trumpet), Thomas McClary (guitar), Ronald LaPread (bass), Walter "Clyde" Orange (drums), Lionel Richie (saxophone), and Milan Williams (keyboards). The members nearly went stir-crazy trying to pick a name for the group, but with no success. As a last resort, Orange gave King a dictionary and told him to pick a name -- that name was the Commodores. With Clyde Orange the only learned musician in the group, the Commodores began spreading their music throughout their base, which included Tuskegee, Montgomery, and Birmingham, AL.

After success securing dates in their own backyard, the band ventured to New York City for a gig at Smalls Paradise. Told, in so many words by the club owner, that their sound was not happening, the self-contained band was nevertheless called back to the club to fill in for a last-minute cancellation. That night the Tuskegee alumni performed before a standing-room-only crowd -- most of which were friends and family of the band. Unaware of the planned crowd, the owner booked the band for two more weeks.


The Commodores' long association with Motown began as a result of a tour opening for the Jackson 5. That opportunity occurred in 1971, when the group auditioned in New York City for an unknown yet high-profile gig. Two weeks later, they made their first appearance in the prized support slot, and didn't give it up for more than two years. Their excellent shows naturally led to a deal with Motown, and they debuted with the up-tempo instrumental dance cut "Machine Gun." Written by Milan Williams, its Top Ten outing gave the group immediate attention. It was followed by the Top 20 single "I Feel Sanctified," which led to their third single -- and first number one record -- in "Slippery When Wet." Inside of 17 weeks, the septet was rocking the airwaves with their brand of Southern funk, spiced with an animated vocal delivery courtesy of Lionel Richie and Clyde Orange.

In September of 1976, they released "Just to Be Close to You," their second number one single and a number seven pop hit. The Top Ten hit "Fancy Dancer" followed, and then came "Easy." Different from their other tunes, "Easy" was very serene and not nearly as soulful or funky as the band's other tunes. Nonetheless, it claimed the number one spot on the charts, and it paved the way for the style of ballads the group became known for. One exception to the ballad-heavy approach was "Brickhouse," the song that soon became the group's anthem. The arrangement and candid vocal lead by Clyde Orange was complemented by the evenly saturated percussive and rhythmic attack, and it cracked the Top Ten at number four. Two consecutive number one singles would follow: the dance cut "Too Hot ta Trot" and the placid number "Three Times a Lady." And then there was "Still," the last number one for the group withRichie as a member. In 1981, Richie recorded "Endless Love" with Diana Ross. The song peaked at number one for seven and nine weeks, respectively, on the Billboard R&B and pop charts. Its success was a prelude to what Richie enjoyed upon his 1982 exit from the group.

In the absence of Richie, the group promptly courted tenor J.D. Nicholas (formerly of Heatwave) and ended up recording their biggest hit. Penned by Clyde Orange, "Nightshift" paid tribute to the late soul singers Marvin Gaye andJackie Wilson. For four consecutive weeks it topped the charts, and it also won the group their only Grammy.

Commodores finally left Motown in 1985. Consequently, the group signed with Polydor the same year and had another swing at the Top Ten with "Goin' to the Bank." During the '90s, the band was reduced to a core of three: Orange, King, and Nicholas. The threesome were nearly as active as they'd ever been, performing around the world and managing their own label, Commodore Records.

Source: Craig Lytle, Rovi

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Diana Ross black and white
Diana Ross red dress
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Diana Ross black dress live
Diana Ross red dress live

As a solo artist, Diana Ross is one of the most successful female singers of the rock era. If you factor in her work as the lead singer of the Supremes in the 1960s, she may be the most successful. With her friends Mary Wilson, Florence Ballard, and Barbara Martin, Ross formed the Primettes vocal quartet in 1959. In 1960, they were signed to local Motown Records, changing their name to the Supremes in 1961. Martin then left, and the group continued as a trio. Over the next eight years, the Supremes (renamed "Diana Ross and the Supremes" in 1967, when Cindy Birdsong replaced Ballard) scored 12 number one pop hits. After the last one, "Someday We'll Be Together" (October 1969), Ross launched a solo career.

Motown initially paired her with writer/producers Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson, who gave her four Top 40 pop hits, including the number one "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" (July 1970). Ross branched out into acting, starring in a film biography of Billie Holiday, Lady Sings the Blues (November 1972). The soundtrack went to number one, and Ross was nominated for an Academy Award.


She returned to record-making with the Top Ten album Touch Me in the Morning (June 1973) and its chart-topping title song. This was followed by a duet album with Marvin Gaye, Diana & Marvin (October 1973), that produced three chart hits. Ross acted in her second movie, Mahogany (October 1975), and it brought her another chart-topping single in the theme song, "Do You Know Where You're Going To." That and her next number one, the disco-oriented "Love Hangover" (March 1976), were featured on her second album to be titled simply Diana Ross (February 1976), which rose into the Top Ten.

Ross' third film role came in The Wiz (October 1978). The Boss (May 1979) was a gold-selling album, followed by the platinum-selling Diana (May 1980) (the second of her solo albums with that name, though the other, a 1971 TV soundtrack, had an exclamation mark). It featured the number one single "Upside Down" and the Top Ten hit "I'm Coming Out."

Ross scored a third Top Ten hit in 1980 singing the title theme from the movie It's My Turn. She then scored the biggest hit of her career with another movie theme, duetting with Lionel Richie on "Endless Love" (June 1981). It was her last big hit on Motown; after more than 20 years, she decamped for RCA. She was rewarded immediately with a million-selling album, titled after her remake of the old Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers hit, "Why Do Fools Fall in Love," which became her next Top Ten hit. The album also included the Top Ten hit "Mirror, Mirror."

Silk Electric (October 1982) was a gold-seller, featuring the Top Ten hit "Muscles," written and produced by Michael Jackson, and Swept Away (September 1984) was another successful album, containing the hit "Missing You," but Ross had trouble selling records in the second half of the 1980s. By 1989, she had returned to Motown, and by 1993 was turning more to pop standards, notably on the concert album Diana Ross Live: The Lady Sings...Jazz & Blues, Stolen Moments (April 1993).

Motown released a four-CD/cassette box set retrospective, Forever Diana, in October 1993, and the singer published her autobiography in 1994. Take Me Higher followed a year later, and in 1999 she returned with Every Day Is a New Day. 2000's Gift of Love was promoted by a concert tour featuring the Supremes, although neither Mary Wilson nor Cindy Birdsong appeared -- their roles were instead assumed by singers Lynda Laurence and Scherrie Payne, neither of whom had ever performed with Ross during the group's glory days. In 2006 Motown finally released Ross' lost album Blue, a collection of standards originally intended as the follow-up to Lady Sings the Blues. The album I Love You from 2007 featured new interpretations of familiar love songs. That same year the cable television network BET honored Ross with their Lifetime Achievement Award. ~ All Music Guide

For the Record...

Born Diane Ernestine Earle Ross on March 26, 1944, in Detroit, MI; daughter of Fred and Ernestine Ross; married Robert Ellis Silberstein, 1971 (divorced, 1976); married Arne Naess, Jr., 1985 (divorced, 2000); children: Rhonda, Suzanne, Tracee Joy, Chudney, Ross Arne, Evan.

Began singing as part of quartet with The Primettes, 1959; signed to Motown Records (group's name was changed to The Supremes), 1960; released first single with Supremes for Motown, 1961; left Supremes to pursue solo career, 1968; appeared on Broadway with one-woman show An Evening with Diana Ross, 1976; signed contract with RCA, 1980; returned to Motown, 1989; wrote the first volume of her autobiography Diana Ross: Secret of a Sparrow for Headline Books, 1993; with Roseanne Shelnutt co-authored the career scrapbook Diana Ross: Going Back for Universe Books, 2002; released the second volume of her autobiography Wrong Turns, Right Turns, and the Road Ahead for Reagan Books, 2004.

Awards: NAACP Image Award, Female Entertainer of the year, 1970; Antoinette Perry (Tony) Award, 1972; Golden Globe Award, Most Promising Newcomer, 1972; American Music Awards, Favorite Pop/Rock Album, 1974; Favorite Female Artist, Soul/R&B, and Favorite Single, Soul R&B, 1981; Favorite Female Artist, Pop/Rock, Favorite Single, Soul R&B, 1982; Favorite Female Artist, Soul/R&B, and Special Award of Merit, 1983; Inducted into Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame as member of Supremes, 1988; Guinness Book of World Records, Most Successful Female Singer of All Time, 1993; Soul Train Music Awards, Heritage Award for Career Achievement, 1995; inducted into Soul Train Hall of Fame, 1995; World Music Awards, Lifetime Achievement Award, 1996; National Academy of Popular Music, Songwriters Hall of Fame Hitmaker Award, 1998; BET Walk of Fame Award, 1999; National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS), Heroes Award, 2000.

Addresses: Record company Motown Records, 825 Eighth Ave., 28th Fl., New York, NY 10019, website: Agent/i>Rogers & Cowan PR, 1888 Century Park E., Ste. 500, Los Angeles, CA 90067. Website/i>Diana Ross Official Website:

Albums (produced by Motown unless otherwise noted):
Diana Ross, 1970.
Everything is Everything, 1970.
Surrender, 1971.
Touch Me in the Morning, 1973.
Diana & Marvin (with Marvin Gaye), 1973.
Last Time I Saw Him, 1973.
Diana Ross, 1976.
Baby It's Me, 1977.
Ross, 1978.
The Boss, 1979.
diana, 1980.
Why Do Fools Fall in Love, RCA, 1981.
Silk Electric, RCA, 1982.
Ross, RCA, 1983.
Swept Away, RCA, 1984.
Eaten Alive, RCA, 1985.
Red Hot Rhythm & Blues, RCA, 1987.
Workin' Overtime, 1989.
The Force Behind the Power, 1991.
A Very Special Season, EMI, 1994.
Take Me Higher, 1995.
Every Day Is a New Day, 1999.
Blue, 2006.
I Love You, EMI/Manhattan, 2006.

Sources: Ken Burke; William Ruhlmann

This information is provided as a brief overview and not as a definitive guide, there are other sources on the net for that. If however you have a story or information that is not generally known we would love to hear from you.

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First formed in the early '50s, the Isley Brothers enjoyed one of the longest, most influential, and most diverse careers in the pantheon of popular music -- over the course of nearly a half century of performing, the group's distinguished history spanned not only two generations of Isley siblings but also massive cultural shifts which heralded their music's transformation from gritty R&B to Motown soul to blistering funk. The first generation of Isley siblings was born and raised in Cincinnati, OH, where they were encouraged to begin a singing career by their father, himself a professional vocalist, and their mother, a church pianist who provided musical accompaniment at their early performances. Initially a gospel quartet, the group was comprised of Ronald, Rudolph, O'Kelly, and Vernon Isley; after Vernon's 1955 death in a bicycling accident, tenor Ronald was tapped as the remaining trio's lead vocalist. In 1957, the brothers went to New York City to record a string of failed doo wop singles; while performing a spirited reading of the song "Lonely Teardrops" in Washington, D.C., two years later, they interjected the line "You know you make me want to shout," which inspired frenzied audience feedback. An RCA executive in the audience saw the concert, and when he signed the Isleys soon after, he instructed that their first single be constructed around their crowd-pleasing catch phrase; while the call-and-response classic "Shout" failed to reach the pop Top 40 on its initial release, it eventually became a frequently covered classic.

Still, success eluded the Isleys, and only after they left RCA in 1962 did they again have another hit, this time with their seminal cover of the Top Notes' "Twist and Shout." Like so many of the brothers' early R&B records, "Twist and Shout" earned greater commercial success when later rendered by a white group -- in this case, the Beatles; other acts who notched hits by closely following the Isleys' blueprint were the Yardbirds ("Respectable," also covered by the Outsiders), the Human Beinz ("Nobody but Me"), and Lulu ("Shout"). During a 1964 tour, they recruited a young guitarist named Jimmy James to play in their backing band; James -- who later shot to fame under his given name, Jimi Hendrix -- made his first recordings with the Isleys, including the single "Testify," issued on the brothers' own T-Neck label. They signed to the Motown subsidiary Tamla in 1965, where they joined forces with the famed Holland-Dozier-Holland writing and production team. Their first single, the shimmering "This Old Heart of Mine (Is Weak for You)," was their finest moment yet, and barely missed the pop Top Ten.

"This Old Heart of Mine" was their only hit on Motown, however, and when the song hit number three in Britain in 1967, the Isleys relocated to England in order to sustain their flagging career; after years of writing their own material, they felt straitjacketed by the Motown assembly-line production formula, and by the time they returned stateside in 1969, they had exited Tamla to resuscitate the T-Bone label. Their next release, the muscular and funky "It's Your Thing," hit number two on the U.S. charts in 1969, and became their most successful record. That year, the Isleys also welcomed a number of new members as younger brothers Ernie and Marvin, brother-in-law Chris Jasper, and family friend Everett Collins became the trio's new backing unit. Spearheaded by Ernie's hard-edged guitar leads, the group began incorporating more and more rock material into its repertoire as the 1970s dawned, and scored hits with covers of Stephen Stills' "Love the One You're With," Eric Burdon & War's "Spill the Wine," and Bob Dylan's "Lay Lady Lay."


In 1973, the Isleys scored a massive hit with their rock-funk fusion cover of their own earlier single "Who's That Lady," retitled "That Lady, Pt. 1"; the album 3 + 3 also proved highly successful, as did 1975's The Heat Is On, which spawned the smash "Fight the Power, Pt. 1." As the decade wore on, the group again altered its sound to fit into the booming disco market; while their success on pop radio ran dry, they frequently topped the R&B charts with singles like 1977's "The Pride," 1978's "Take Me to the Next Phase, Pt. 1," 1979's "I Wanna Be With You, Pt. 1," and 1980's "Don't Say Goodnight." While the Isleys' popularity continued into the 1980s, Ernie and Marvin, along with Chris Jasper, defected in 1984 to form their own group, Isley/Jasper/Isley; a year later, they topped the R&B charts with "Caravan of Love." On March 31, 1986, O'Kelly died of a heart attack; Rudolph soon left to join the ministry, but the group reunited in 1990. Although the individual members continued with solo work and side projects, the Isley Brothers forged on in one form or another throughout the decade; in 1996, now consisting of Ronald, Marvin, and Ernie, they released the album Mission to Please. Ronald and Ernie hooked up several years later for Eternal (2001), a brand-new selection of R&B cuts featuring collaborative efforts with Jill Scott, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, and Raphael Saadiq. On that particular release, Ronald also introduced the alter ego Mr. Biggs. Body Kiss (2003) and Baby Makin' Music (2006) followed.



Shout!, RCA Victor, 1959.
Twist and Shout, Wand, 1962.
Twisting and Shouting, United Artists, 1963.
This Old Heart of Mine, Tamla, 1966.
Soul on the Rocks, Tamla, 1967.
It's Our Thing, T-Neck, 1969.
The Brothers Isley, T-Neck, 1969.
Live at Yankee Stadium, T-Neck, 1969.
Get Into Something, T-Neck, 1970.
In the Beginning, T-Neck, 1971.
Givin' It Back, T-Neck, 1971.
Brother, Brother, Brother, T-Neck, 1972.
3+3, T-Neck, 1973; reissued Sony, 2003.
Live It Up, T-Neck, 1974.
The Heat Is On, T-Neck, 1975; reissued, Sony, 2003.
Harvest for the World, T-Neck, 1976; reissued, Sony, 2003.
Go for Your Guns, T-Neck, 1977.
Showdown, T-Neck, 1978.
Timeless, T-Neck, 1978.
Winner Takes All, T-Neck, 1979.
Go All the Way, T-Neck, 1980.
Grand Slam, T-Neck, 1981.
Inside You, T-Neck, 1981.
The Real Deal, T-Neck, 1982.
Between the Sheets, T-Neck, 1983.
Greatest Hits, Volume 1, T-Neck, 1984.
Masterpiece, Warner Bros., 1985.
Smooth Sailin', Warner Bros., 1987.
Spend the Night, Warner Bros., 1989.
Shout!: The Complete Victor Sessions, RCA, 1991; reissued, 1996.
Tracks of Life, Warner Bros., 1992.
Live, Elektra/Asylum, 1993.
Beautiful Ballads, Sony/Legacy, 1994.
For The Love of You, Collectables, 1995.
The Isley Brothers Live, Rhino, 1996.
Mission to Please, Island, 1996.
Shake it Up Baby: Shout, Twist and Shout, Varese Vintage, 2000.
Eternal, DreamWorks, 2000.
Love Songs, Sony, 2001.
20th Century Masters - The Millenium Collection: The Best of the Isley Brothers, Universal, 2001.
Body Kiss, DreamWorks, 2003.
Here I Am: Isley Meets Bacharach, DreamWorks, 2003.
Live It Up, Epic/Legacy, 2004.

Source:  Jason Ankeny, All Music Guide; eNotes

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Tammi Terrell
Tammi Terrell & Marvin Gaye
Tammi Terrell, Sam Cooke & Betty Harris
Tammi Terrell & Marvin Gaye Head Shot
Tammi Terrell On Stage
Thomasina Montgomery

Singer Tammi Terrell joined forces with the immortal Marvin Gaye to create some of the greatest love songs ever to emerge from the Motown hit factory; sadly, their series of classic duets - "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing," and "You're All I Need to Get By" among them - came to an abrupt and tragic halt with her premature death.

Terrell was born Thomasina Montgomery in Philadelphia on April 29, 1945; after winning a number of local talent contests, by the age of 13 she was regularly opening club dates for acts including Gary “U.S.” Bonds and Patti LaBelle & the Bluebelles.

In 1961, she was discovered by producer Luther Dixon and signed to Scepter. Credited as Tammy Montgomery, she made her debut with the single "If You See Bill," followed early the next year by "The Voice of Experience." After James Brown caught Terrell's live act, she was signed to his Try Me label, issuing "I Cried" in 1963 and also touring with his live revue.

"If I Would Marry You" appeared on Checker a year later, during which time she also studied pre-med at the University of Pennsylvania. While performing with Jerry Butler in Detroit in 1965, Terrell was spotted by Motown chief Berry Gordy, Jr., making her label debut with "I Can't Believe You Love Me."

When subsequent outings "Come On and See Me," "This Old Heart of Mine (Is Weak for You)," and "Hold Me Oh My Darling" earned little notice, she was paired with Gaye, who previously recorded duets with Mary Wells and Kim Weston. His chemistry with Terrell was immediate and in 1967, they entered the pop Top 20 with the magnificent "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," the first in a series of lush, sensual hits authored by the husband-and-wife team of Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson.

"Your Precious Love" cracked the Top Five a few months later and in 1968, the twosome topped the R&B charts with both "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing" and "You're All I Need to Get By." The success of these later hits was nevertheless tempered by Terrell's off-stage travails - after an extended period of severe migraine headaches, in 1967 she collapsed in Gaye's arms while in concert at Virginia's Hampton-Sydney College, and was diagnosed with a brain tumour.


Although the tumour forced Terrell to retire from performing live, she continued to record with Gaye even as her health deteriorated; however, as time went on, Valerie Simpson herself assumed un-credited vocal duties on a number of hits, including 1969's "Good Lovin' Ain't Easy to Come By" and "What You Gave Me." (For several other tracks, Gaye's vocals were added to pre-existing Terrell solo recordings.)

In all, Terrell endured eight operations, ultimately resulting in loss of memory and partial paralysis; she finally died in Philadelphia on March 16, 1970. Gaye was so devastated by her decline and eventual passing that he retired from the road for three years; her loss also contributed greatly to the spiritual turmoil which informed his 1971 masterpiece What's Going On.

At the time of her death, Tammi Terrell was just 24 years old.


The Early Show, 1967.

Irresistible, 1969.

The Essential Collection, 2001.

Come On and See Me: The Complete Solo Collection, 2010.

~ Jason Ankeny, All Music Guide


This information is provided as a brief overview and not as a definitive guide, there are other sources on the net for that. If however you have a story or information that is not generally known we would love to hear from you.

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Jackie Wilson Head Shot
Jackie Wilson Live
Jackie Wilson & Elvis Presley
Jackie Wilson Album Cover

Jackie “Mr Excitement” Wilson was born in Detroit, Michigan. He would go on to be one of the most dynamic performers in R&B and Rock-n-Roll history. Few would match his vocal range. Many critics feel he was an underachiever in the studio, never reaching the massive cross-over hits of the competitive Motown label artists.


However, Wilson had a lot of passion on stage, hence why he got the nickname “Mr Excitement”. His stage style would later inspire the moves of such greats like Elvis and Michael Jackson.

He started out as a member of the vocal group, The Dominoes, but went solo in 1957. Songwriters, Berry Gordy Jr and Roguel Davis would write many hits for Wilson, including To Be Loved”, “That’s Why” and “Lonely Teardrops. The latter would eventually hit #7 on the US pop charts and establish him as a superstar in the R&B genre. Gordy would go on to form Motown Records after he stopped writing for Wilson.

In 1958 and under new management, Wilson was pushed to attack the rock-n-roll charts. He had his first hits in the 60s with Doggin’ Around”, “Baby Workout”, “Alone At Last” and “My Empty Arms”. Between 1964 and 1966, Wilson’s career fizzled out until he released “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher” which was a #6 smash in 1967. His final hit was in 1972.

Wilson suffered a severe heart attack while on stage. He fell head-first while singing his hit “Lonely Teardrops” and went into a coma that lasted over 8 years until he finally died at the age of 49. Since his death, he has been covered by a veritable cornucopia of artists including Dexys Midnight Runners and The Commodores.

When Michael Jackson tributed his 1984 Grammy for Thriller to Wilson, an interest resurged in the soul great’s catalogue of music. His first single, Reet Petite was re-released and went straight to #1 in the UK charts. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.

Juanita Appleby

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Elvis Presley

Michael Jackson

Martha Reeves & The Vandellas

10 Unluckiest Rockstars

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Etta James

Etta James Close Up
Etta James in the Studio
Etta James Recording

Etta James is a truly legendary American singer. Her career spans over five decades, dozens of albums, four Grammy Awards and her very own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Her vocal styles have changed over the years. Originally, she was positioned as a doo-wop singer. This evolved in to jazz and then finally her gravelly voice was best suited to blues and soul.

In recent years, she has been seen as crossing the divide between R&B and Rock-n-Roll. Her voice and talent have been documented as an inspiration for Bonnie Raitt, Rod Stewart, Janis Joplin and the Motown diva, Diana Ross.

Even with a prolific catalogue of acclaimed records, it’s only been in the last decade that she has received mainstream industry recognition. James was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993 and she was awarded four Grammies in 1995, 2003, 2004 and 2005.

James had her first #1 single in 1955 with “The Wallflower” but she is more known for her crossover breakthrough in the 60s when she released “At Last”, “Trust In Me” “Pushover” and “Something’s Got a Hold On Me”, all top ten hits.


In the mid-60s, James began an epic battle with heroin that, according to her autobiography, would eventually last well into her 50s. But she continued to belt out big hits and remained a concert attraction.

Her career went into a standstill until the late 80s and 90s. She collaborated with Def Jam rapper, Delicious Vinyl. James was now exposed to a younger generation through the popular fusion of hip hop and jazz as well as the song “I Just Wanna Make Love To You” featured on a Coca-Cola TV commercial.

The 2000s were a big decade for James. In 2001, she was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame and also was inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. She shed over 200 pounds. Rolling Stone named her #64 of the Top 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. In 2006, she added her distinctive vocals to an album of covers featuring songs from Prince, John Lennon, Simply Red and Marvin Gaye. She participated in a tribute album to another jazz great, Ella Fitzgerald. And pop sensation, Beyoncè Knowles, played a younger version of James in the 2008 movie called Cadillac Records.

Juanita Appleby

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The Supremes


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Edwin Starr

Edwin Starr Star Spangled Banner
Edwin Starr War Single
Edwin Starr Live
Charles Hatcher

Starr was born Charles Hatcher in 1942 in Nashville, Tennessee. He was the cousin of soul music performer Roger Hatcher, but grew up in a non-musical household.

Starr formed his first group, the Future Tones, in 1957, recording one single before his three-year army service.

In 1965, he was offered a solo deal following two years of touring with another band. Starr's early hits included "Agent Double-O Soul" and "Stop Her on Sight (S.O.S)." But his biggest success came with "War," a Number 1 hit in 1970, during a time of growing anti-Vietnam War protests. Other top 10 hits included "Contact" and "H.A.P.P.Y. Radio."


Edwin Starr was a veteran of Vietnam War.
He made a brief comeback during the disco craze, and later spent most of his time touring Europe on the oldies circuit. In England, Starr participated in an award-winning British Broadcasting Corporation radio series on the U.S. civil rights movement. In 1995, he was featured on a Walt Disney children's workout album entitled ‘Mousercise’. In 2002, Starr performed at the wedding of Liza Minnelli and David Gest in New York.

His last performances were at two shows in Stuttgart, Germany March 29th and 30th, 2003. He sadly passed away on April 2nd 2003, in Nottingham, England.

Carly Page

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James Brown

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The Supreme trio
The Supreme black and white
The Supreme mic
The Supreme studio
The Supreme promo

The Supremes are arguably the most iconic girl group of all time, paving the way for African American artists both male and female to find mainstream chart success in the United States. The Supremes have become symbolic of the diva, strong black female mentality typified by more modern groups such as Destiny’s Child, En vogue and TLC. With the help of one of Americas most infamous recorded music labels, Tamla Motown, The Supreme seemed destined and armed for success, although for a while success seemed like a distant dream.


The Supremes began as the Primettes, in 1958, Detroit, Michigan, by Florence Ballard, a Junior High school student at the time. The band were originally a four piece who embraced the local talent shows, before long they auditioned for Motown owner Berry Gordy who insisted the girls come back after graduating from high school. Un-phased the girls continued to hang around the Motown studio; Hitsville USA, in the hope of recording, the group provided handclaps and backing vocals on many songs. In 1962 the group signed to Motown Records, with group members; Diana Ross, Florence Ballard and Mary Wilson. Initially the band took some time to get going; it wasn’t until they teamed up with the song writing dream team of Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Edward Holland, also known as, Holland-Dozier-Holland that the hits started to pour in.

By 1964 the band had 4 consecutive No.1’s with ‘Baby Love’ ‘Come see about me’ and ‘back in my arms again’. The Supremes would continue to have hits through out the 60’s. By 1967, the group began to fall apart after tensions grew between Diana Ross and Florence Ballard, Ballard began to go off the rails, drinking and turning up late for auditions on a regular basis, Ballard left the group in 1968. The group had been re-named Diana Ross and the Supremes due to Ross’s increasing popularity. By 1969 Diana Ross left the group, to pursue a solo career. The Supremes continued to record with a new line–up, with moderate success.

The strength of The Supremes impact can be seen in the movie 'Sparkle And Dream Girls', the tony award winning musical, which was later adapted into a film (both based on The Supremes story), there image has been imitated many times by artists such as Solange Knowles, Amy Winehouse and Duffy to name a few. The Supremes legacy will be as one of the premier girl groups of all time, that were the female faces of Tamla Motown and pop music worldwide.

Group formed c. 1960 in Detroit as vocal quartet the Primettes; original members included Florence Ballard (born June 30, 1943, in Detroit; died February 22, 1976, in Detroit), Diana Ross (born March 26, 1944, in Detroit), Mary Wilson (born March 4, one source says March 6,1944, in Detroit), and Barbara Martin, who appeared as fourth member on the Primettes' first three singles.

Ballard was replaced by Cindy Birdsong (born December 15, 1939, in Camden, NJ) in 1967. Jean Terrell (born November 26, c. 1944, in Texas) replaced Ross in 1970; was replaced by Scherrie Payne (born November 14, 1944) in 1973; other incarnations of The Supremes included Lynda Laurence, Susaye Green, and Karen Jackson; group disbanded, 1977.
Awards: The Supremes—Ross, Wilson, and Ballard—were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, 1988.

Albums; as the Supremes: 

Meet the Supremes, Motown, 1963.
Where Did Our Love Go, Motown, 1964.
A Bit of Liverpool, Motown, 1964.
Supremes Sing Country, Western and Pop, Motown, 1965.
We Remember Sam Cooke, Motown, 1965.
More Hits by the Supremes, Motown, 1965.
Merry Christmas, Motown, 1965.
Supremes at the Copa, Motown, 1965.
I Hear a Symphony, Motown, 1966.
Supremes a Go Go, Motown, 1966.
Supremes Sing Holland, Dozier, Holland, Motown, 1967.
Albums; as Diana Ross and the Supremes:
Supremes Sing Rodgers and Hart, Motown, 1967.
Diana Ross and the Supremes Greatest Hits, Motown, 1967.
Reflections, Motown, 1968.
Diana Ross and the Supremes Sing and Perform "Funny Girl", Motown, 1968.
Diana Ross and the Supremes "Live" at London's Talk of Town, Motown, 1968.
Diana Ross and the Supremes Join the Temptations, Motown, 1968.
Love Child, Motown, 1968.
(With the Temptations) TCB, Motown, 1968.
Let the Sunshine In, Motown, 1969.
(With the Temptations) Together, Motown, 1969.
Cream of the Crop, Motown, 1969.
(With the Temptations) On Broadway, Motown, 1969.
Diana Ross and the Supremes Greatest Hits, Volume 3, Motown, 1970.
Farewell, Motown, 1970.
Later albums; as the Supremes:
Right On, Motown, 1970.
(With the Four Tops) The Magnificent Seven, Motown, 1970.
New Ways but Love Stays, Motown, 1970.
(With the Four Tops) The Return of the Magnificent Seven, Motown, 1971.
Touch, Motown, 1971.
(With the Four Tops) Dynamite, Motown, 1971.
Floy Joy, Motown, 1972.
The Supremes, Motown, 1972.
Anthology, Motown, 1974.
The Supremes, Motown, 1975.
High Energy, Motown, 1976.
Mary, Scheme & Susaye, Motown, 1976.
At Their Best, Motown, 1978.

Sources: Segun Murray Ogunsheye; David Bianco

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The Four Tops

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Michael McDonald

Michael McDonald live
Michael McDonald
Michael McDonald posing
Michael McDonald

Michael McDonald, the famous American R&B/Soul singer/songwriter was born on 12th February 1952 in St. Louis. He is sometimes known as a ‘blue-eyed soul’ singer and has a distinctive style of singing in a husky-soulful style. McDonald is also known for his work as a member of The Doobie Brothers and Steely Dan.

He became well known during his time with Steely Dan whilst working on “Katy Lied”, “The Royal Scam”, “Peg”, “I Got the News” and “Gaucho” as a backing vocalist. He was then recruited into The Doobie Brothers in 1975 when their lead singer became ill during a tour. He was so successful he became a full time member of the band and recorded the likes of “Takin’ It to the Streets”, “Minute by Minute”, “Little Darling”, ''It Keeps You Runnin'' and “What a Fool Believes” which earned him a Grammy Award for Song of the Year in 1978.

McDonald went solo in 1982 and recorded a number of “If That’s What It Takes”, “No Lookin’ Back”, “Take It To Heart”, “Blink of an Eye”, “Blue Obsession”, “Motown”, “Motown 2” and “Soul Speak”. His single “Yah Mo B There” won him his second Grammy for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals. Michael McDonald is still active in the music industry today.


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