It was one of the great achievements in American chart history of the 1960s. Almost as celebrated as The Beatles’ achievement of 1964, when they had the entire top five of the Billboard Hot 100, is the renowned total of 12 US No. 1 singles scored by the Supremes in less than five and a half years. On the chart of 27 December 1969, the Motown trio scored the last of them.
It was the end of a decade, the end of that sequence and the end of an era, as Diana Ross said farewell to the group with ‘Someday We’ll Be Together’ — which, unknown to the public at the time, didn’t even feature the other Supremes.
The group first hit the top of the pop survey in the summer of 1964 with ‘Where Did Our Love Go,’ and from that point on they scored chart-toppers with a regularity that was rivalled during the decade only by The Beatles. There were further No. 1s that year with ‘Baby Love’ and ‘Come See About Me’; three more in 1965, two in 1966, two in 1967 and one in 1968.
By late in 1969, Ross and Motown were advancing plans for her solo career. Her final performance with the group would follow in the new year, but with ‘Someday We’ll Be Together,’ written by Johnny Bristol with Jackey Beavers and Harvey Fuqua eight years earlier, was earmarked as a suitably emotional, momentous composition to be a final single by the already iconic trio.
The song was first recorded by Bristol and Beavers as Johnny and Jackey, and released, without success, on Fuqua’s Tri-Phi label in 1961. As the decade neared its end, as Berry Gordy made his plans for Ross’ solo stardom, he eyed the cover as her potential debut in her own right. Bristol, charged with the production responsibilities, went into the studio to cut it with her.
In the end, Gordy decided that Bristol’s own vocals, which he had recorded alongside Diana’s to encourage her performance, should be left on the track. Johnny had already taped backing vocals for it by Maxine and Julia Waters, and the song became the final single by Diana Ross and the Supremes, as they had been credited since 1967 — even though Mary Wilson and Cindy Birdsong weren’t on it at all. A momentous era was ending in a bittersweet way.
‘Someday We’ll Be Together’ is on the original album by Diana Ross & the Supremes, Cream Of The Crop, which can be bought here.
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