First Hit #1: November 30, 1968
This song is notable for a couple reasons. One, it’s the first #1 by Diana Ross and the Supremes, as opposed to the Supremes, regular flavor, indicating that the front woman and her label are trying to turn her into a solo act. It’s interesting only in an Inside Baseball kind of way, and I’m not sure it affected the music that much. Two, and most importantly, it’s actually really dark, both in lyrics and in style.
The song itself is about a woman who is trying to put off a lover by singing about how much it sucks to be a love child. So we have a love song mixed with song about bullying, poverty and sadness, a tale of a horrible childhood rendered quite beautifully by Ross and company. It also dips low in a few places in the verses and there’s space in the arrangement – yes, for once I wish I knew about musical theory so I could better articulate what I’m talking about here – which gives it a slightly ominous tone, appropriate for a song that’s about everything bad about being a love child. The best thing about it is that it makes sense in context, if Ross was singing this to you in the bedroom you’d still be enchanted, but also thoroughly turned off. Nice work all around.