The story of Florence Ballard is one of those rock n’ roll tragedies, one of those ‘what could have beens’ that litter the history of popular music. She was the originator of the Supremes, a far better singer than Diana Ross, but lost out for a number of reasons that either led to, or were caused by her alcoholism. She died at age 32.
Reading that Mary Wilson has just died, at the age of 76, got me listening to Flo again. Her voice is like honey on sandpaper, and powerful too, legend has it that she had to stand fifteen feet away from the microphone when recording.
But I don’t think the songs she recorded, or the productions of those songs, do her justice. I’d love to hear her recorded singing with a stripped-down band*, but I don’t think anything like that exists. If it does, I’ll find it.
In the meantime, here she is.
*same as I’d love to hear Karen Carpenter singing without all the lush production her brother put onto their records. If only Rick Rubin had been able to produce an album with both of them.