Today in Music History: Diana Ross and The Supremes score 12th No.1

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On this day in 1969, Diana Ross and The Supremes scored their 12th No. 1 US hit with “Someday We’ll Be Together.” The song is from the group’s album, “Cream of the Crop.” The song demonstrates the group’s ability to weave hope into songs of love. That message plus the vocal sound The Supremes were known for, all likely helped the song to reach the top of the charts.

“Someday We’ll Be Together” has a unique history in that it was the last No. 1 pop hit of the 1960s in the US, and the first r&b hit of the 1970s in the US. Also, it would be last Supremes’ album featuring Diana Ross. The singer would leave for a solo career in 1970. The song managed to conquer both pop and r&b charts for weeks at a time. There had to be something to the sound and lyrics of the track to keep people listening to and buying the record.

“Someday We’ll Be Together” by Diana Ross and The Supremes makes for good listening

When a song climbs the charts (and manages to stay there a while), in retrospect, fans and music historians alike might want to figure out what makes certain songs have the impact they do on listeners. Given the hundreds or thousands of song that are available at any given time, even before the Internet Age, there would have had to have been some meaningful aspect of the song to give it chart-topping staying power.

A spry string motif begins the song. It changes slightly and melds with a rich-sounding guitar. As the instrumentation continues, but before the vocals begin, it sounds as if a key change occurs, and that preps listeners for the vocals to come. The vocals are sophisticated, yet hopeful. A lot of the song’s dynamics stem from the lyrics’ repetition. When Ross intones “Say it, say it, say it” the repetition there prepares listeners for when phrases like “I know” and “Yes, we will” get repeated later in the song. The vocals never get out of control. But the repetition and the phrases of hope show that the idea of being with the beloved is important to the narrator.

The instrumentation eventually soars, and the urgent repetition of the lyrics and the persistence that this desired being together is going to happen helps to make clear the song’s theme to listeners. The universal appeal of it has likely lead to the song being a No. 1 hit when it was newly released, and still popular and recognizable 50 years later.

The lasting legacy of Diana Ross and The Supremes

While there have been plenty of girl groups since the days of The Supremes, there was something special about the way the group came together that makes them a standard for girl groups in the coming decades. For example, Destiny’s Child has been compared to The Supremes. In fact, some listeners will remember when the group’s single “No, No, No,” was given a remix, featuring Wyclef Jean. He refers to them as “the young Supremes.” Some would also point out that each group had a singer who would leave and develop a successful solo career. Regardless of how things eventually went, Diana Ross and The Supremes were a cultural force and musical icons. Their 12th No.1 record helps to show why.

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Dodie Miller-Gould is a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana who lives in New York City where she studies creative nonfiction at Columbia University. She has BA and MA degrees in English from Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne, and an MFA in Fiction from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Her research interests include popular music and culture, 1920s jazz, and blues, confessional poetry, and the rhetoric of fiction. She has presented at numerous conferences in rhetoric and composition, and creative writing. Her creative works have appeared in Tenth Muse, Apostrophe, The Flying Island, Scavenger's Newsletter and elsewhere. She has won university-based awards for creative work and literary criticism.

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