First Hit #1: August 15, 1964
One of the things I’ve noticed from this project is that influences seem to stem from places slightly different from what you expect. For instance, since it’s 1964 and all music is tying back to the Beatles in some way, many people regard that group as the most influential part of the era. No, they’re not, it’s the girl groups. It’s difficult to say a specific girl group, since they didn’t wield much creative control and were sometimes replaced whole scale by an impatient producer like so. But that movement is what the Beatles built their sound on, and everything they did stems from that initial inspiration in the girl groups themselves.
I mention this because we’ve hit the Supremes, and while they’re later to the party they remain one of the most famous. That’s thanks to Diana Ross, who took a song that the Marvelettes hated for being childish and somehow making it seem incredibly mature. On close inspection the lyrics are no great shakes, and the most important part of the song is when Ross is singing Baby Baby, putting more meaning into those completely meaningless words than some songs have in their entire being. Any emotional resonance is coming from Ross’ performance, and the pleading, yearning sound keeps what is otherwise a lightweight little trifle a compelling and continually interesting. She’s a star because she can sing the phone book, and she pushes this to stratospheric heights.