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 Florence Ballard

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Florence Ballard

Birth
Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan, USA
Death 22 Feb 1976 (aged 32)
Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan, USA
Burial Warren, Macomb County, Michigan, USA
Memorial ID 4041 View Source
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R&B singer. She received fame as a founding member of one of America's successful female vocal groups of all time, the Supremes. Born Florence Glenda Ballard, the eighth of thirteen children, her childhood home was in Brewster Housing Project, a public housing project in Detroit, Michigan. She started singing in a church choir. In her teens, Ballard formed the vocal group the Primettes with school friends Mary Wilson and Betty Travis, who later left the group. Travis was replaced by Barbara Martin in 1960 and Martin left the group in 1962. After being rejected by Motown on their first audition, the Primettes recorded briefly for Lu Pine Records. Diana Ross completed the line-up in 1960. The following year, in January of 1961, the Primettes were signed by Motown Records, who re-named them the Supremes, thus her singing career began. As the group's acknowledged leader, she was the featured vocalist on their early Motown singles, but label owner Berry Gordy insisted that Ross become the lead singer in 1963. Over the next four years, the Supremes became the toast of show business, appearing on "The Ed Sullivan Show" 20 times, headlining top night clubs and starring in their own top-rated TV specials. She performed on 16 of the group's 40 singles, including ten number one hits. After Ross was made lead, Ballard was allowed few opportunities to take the limelight, either on record or in contract. Unhappy with her diminishing role in the Supremes, she repeatedly complained to Gordy and his executives, and resulting friction led to her being ousted from the group in 1967. Throughout the drama, Motown maintained that Ballard was retiring because of the strain of constant touring. In 1968 Ballard married Tommy Chapman, a former Motown Chauffeur, and they had three children together. Motown annulled her contract, and she signed with ABC, for whom she made two singles. Motown supported the case that she was abusing alcohol to the point it was impacting her performance, and her recent weight gain prevented her from wearing the group's designer stage outfits. Ballard was legally barred from capitalizing on her glorious past with the Supremes, and while her former group continued with their success, her solo releases flopped. Her contract with ABC was later terminated and it was suggested that other labels were weary of offending Gordy by signing her. Ballard became an increasingly embittered figure, ignored by the Detroit Music Scene in which she had played such a pioneer role. By the early 1970's, Ballard's finances had declined to the point that she and her children were living in a Detroit public housing project. Fighting depression, her reliance on a lethal cocktail of alcohol and diet pills soon weakened her health, and in February of 1976, a day after being admitted to a Detroit hospital, Ballard's life ended with a cardiac arrest from a coronary thrombosis at the young age of 32. Ironically, Florence Ballard's contribution to the success of the Supremes has now been recognized, and her fate has been described as a telling verdict on the way in which Motown Records handled its naïve, young artists. Though she departed this life before she could revive her career, Florence Ballard continues to live through the wonderful legacy of the Supremes. Posthumously in 1988, she was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, as a member of the Supremes. The Supremes have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Bio by: Curtis Jackson


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BELOVED WIFE AND MOTHER


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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Added: 21 Nov 1998
  • Find a Grave Memorial 4041
  • Find a Grave, database and images (www.findagrave.com/memorial/4041/florence-ballard : accessed ), memorial page for Florence Ballard (30 Jun 1943–22 Feb 1976), Find a Grave Memorial ID 4041, citing Detroit Memorial Park East, Warren, Macomb County, Michigan, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .