How does the creation of the “girl group” totally affect what we are listening to here?

RaR18 – Baby Love


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Baby Love by The Supremes

The Supremes began their existence as the Primettes. In 1959 Florence Ballard and Mary Wilson, who were both fifteen, met at a talent show in Detroit and began singing together. They were heard by Milton Jenkins, who managed a local doo-wop group The Primes (who later, after several member changes, would rename themselves the Temptations). He was looking for a female group to accompany the Primes for stage performances, and he thought the girls were a perfect fit, though they needed more members. Paul Williams, a member of the Primes, recommended a fifteen-year-old girl who lived in his housing project who he thought had a nice voice. Her name was Diane (later to be Diana) Ross. Ballard, Wilson, and Ross could all sing lead, but Ballard’s voice was considered the strongest, so she typically assumed that role.

Ross’ neighbor, Smokey Robinson, had connections at a new, locally-owned record label, and the Primettes talked him into arranging an audition for Berry Gordy. Gordy didn’t sign them because they were so young, but he told them to come back once they had all graduated from high school. The trio started hanging out at the Motown offices – after all, they had practically been signed – and ended up contributing hand-claps and background vocals to some early singles by Marvin Gaye and Mary Wells. Gordy did sign the group in 1961, on the condition that they change their name. Ballard quickly came up with Supremes; Ballard and Ross didn’t like it, but Gordy did, so the name stayed. Over the next two years, they made a string of unsuccessful singles. A modest hit, “When the Love Light Starts Shining:” in 1963 was a sign of better things to come. The Supremes finally hit the top ten in 1964 with “Where did our love go,” a single that their label mates the Marvelettes had rejected. By this time Gordy had made Diana Ross the lead singer, as her voice was brighter and more pop-oriented than Ballard’s. Ballard and Wilson, though, turned out to be perfect background singers; Ballard’s strong voice gave the backing vocals a presence that was lacking in most other girl groups. One of the most interesting things about the Supremes is that the group continued to make hit records after Ballard was replaced and Ross left to begin a solo career; the group, no matter the composition, was stronger than its individual performers.


The predominance of the backbeat from the drums
The amount of echo on the sound – especially the backbeat
Unique timbres created by background vocal effects, production/studio technology, and interesting combinations of instruments
Refrain or hook – high level of “fear germ” effect – (i.e. tune/hook gets stuck in your head)
The role of the saxophones in the recording
How does the creation of the “girl group” totally affect what we are listening to here? Are the ingredients different? How do they change the sound?
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How does the creation of the "girl group" totally affect what we are listening to here


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