(Photo: Gilles Petard/Redferns)
Born in Detroit on June 30, 1943, Florence Ballad is famously noted as one of the founding members of the female vocalist group the Supremes.
Ballad’s musical career began in high school through singing in small talent shows alongside her childhood friend and would-be group member Mary Wilson. After being spotted while singing on her porch by a local talent scout, Ballad, along with Wilson, Diana Ross and Betty McGlown, formed the Primettes.
However it was not until 1961 when the group auditioned for Motown Records and was signed as the Supremes, a name chosen by Ballad.
Seventeen at the time, Ballad belted the lead vocals to the hit “Buttered Popcorn” and according to Wilson, Ballad’s vocals were so loud that she was directed to stand 17 feet away from the microphone during recording sessions. Ballad’s lead on the song “People” became her signature performance on stage for several years and she sang on 16 Top 40 hits.
After an ongoing dispute with Motown, Ballad’s last performance with the trio was in Las Vegas in 1967.
While Ballad’s life is marked with a successful musical career, she was also confronted with tragic lows. Ballad was raped at knife point at age 17 by a local high school basketball player in an empty Detroit parking lot.
After leaving the Supremes, Ballad’s musical career plummeted and she died at age 32 of a blood clot on one of her coronary arteries on Feb. 22, 1976.
Still, Ballad’s short life is recognized as a large musical contribution to the fans of the Supremes throughout the world.
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