Motown Goes to Hollywood
  • TUESDAY, JANUARY 23, 2007

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The Oscar nominations were announced this morning, with Dreamgirls leading the pack. Although it was turned down for Best Picture and Best Director, the musical was nominated for a grand total of eight awards, edging out Babel’s seven nods. We’d like to present our own award to Jamie Foxx, who – despite missing out on this year’s nominations – has managed to climb the Hollywood ladder from Booty Call co-star to Oscar-nominated mega-actor.

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Dreamgirls is based on the award-winning musical of the same name, but how many people know the true basis of the story? The musical/movie’s basic plot follows the history of the Supremes, Motown’s most successful group of the ‘60s. Effie White, played by Jennifer Hudson in the movie, is modeled after Florence Ballard – the founder and initial leader of the Supremes. Fellow group member Mary Wilson (represented in the movie as Lorrell Robinson and played by actress Loretta Devine) has praised Ballard’s voice as being intensely powerful – so powerful, in fact, that she was made to stand as much as seventeen feet away from her microphone during recording sessions. The two remaining Supremes, on the other hand, stood directly in front of their mics.

Motown chief Berry Gordon (aka Curtis Taylor in Dreamgirls, aka Jaime Foxx in the movie) made Diana Ross the group’s lead singer in 1963, believing her to have more crossover appeal. The Supremes scored numerous top-ten singles, but Ballard was upset at her demoted role. After her increasing alcoholism resulted in missed recording dates, botched performances, and obvious weight gain, Gordy fired her in 1967. Dreamgirls reinterprets the story, though, with Effie White eventually returning to the spotlight. Ballard wasn’t so lucky. Her solo career tanked, she went on welfare, and she soon died of a fatal blood clot in 1976.

Oops, did we depress you? Listen to "Buttered Popcorn" and "Let Me Go the Right Way" from 1962’s Meet the Supremes. Ballard vocals are incredible, and they should cheer anyone up.


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