Lifetime Achievement Award: Diana Ross

A tribute to one of the most successful female artists of all time
  • Photo: Mike Marsland/
    Diana Ross
February 06, 2012 -- 1:38 pm PST

In 1969, when Diana Ross, with the Supremes, joined the Temptations to sing "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me," the song was truly an understatement. She had already won the world's heart as the leader of music's most successful girl group, though even she likely didn't know the extent to which she would ultimately own our collective affection.

Through her role as the lead voice of America's top singing group, a solo music career that resulted in a number of signature hits, and a film and Broadway career that proved she was a multidimensional talent, Ross became a beacon of hope and possibility not just for young African-American women, but for any woman aspiring to prove her worth in a professional world stacked against her.

Ross and friends Florence Ballard, Barbara Martin and Mary Wilson formed the Supremes (originally the Primettes) in the Brewster housing projects in Detroit. The group didn't emerge as stars immediately, and after their first few mid-chart singles, Martin left. But starting with "Where Did Our Love Go?" in 1964, the Supremes would ultimately chart 12 No. 1 pop singles with Ross.

That might have been enough for mere mortal singers, but Ross went solo in 1969 and started a hit-making run of her own that rivaled the Supremes. No less than "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" launched her with a No. 1 hit in 1970. Her first leading movie role came in 1972 with Lady Sings The Blues, which resulted in a Best Actress Oscar nomination and a Golden Globe Award. The role led to 1975's Mahogany — for which Ross even designed some of the costumes — and a No. 1 hit for "Theme From Mahogany (Do You Know Where You're Going To)." Major hits continued into the '80s with such No. 1s as "Upside Down" and the smash movie theme "Endless Love" with Lionel Richie.

Among Ross' list of other achievements are 12 GRAMMY Award nominations, three recordings inducted into the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame (with the Supremes), two Hollywood Walk of Fame stars (one with the Supremes and one as a solo artist), and a Kennedy Center Honors recognition. And most of all, the status of being arguably, as the Guinness Book Of World Records stated in 1993, the most successful female artist of all time.

In addition to the GRAMMY Awards, The Recording Academy presents Special Merit Awards recognizing contributions of significance to the recording field, including the Lifetime Achievement Award, Trustees Award and Technical GRAMMY Award. Each year, The Academy invites friends and colleagues of Special Merit Awards recipients to pay tribute to the honorees' career accomplishments, while also adding colorful anecdotes and personal accounts. In the days leading up to the 54th GRAMMY Awards, will present the tributes to the 2012 Special Merit Awards recipients.

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