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Monday, Sept. 14, 2009

The Supremes: A Saga of Motown Dreams, Success, and Betrayal (Da Capo), by Mark Ribowsky

Book Review

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“As we look back through the funnel cloud of time...” Alas, it’s not the only clunky line in Mark Ribowsky’s saga. Nevertheless, the author manages to capture some of the sights and sounds of Detroit and its flourishing ’60s music scene in what, incredibly, seems to be the first full biography of the Supremes not written by an ex-member or intimate. Was the singing trio really “the most important modern American music act after Elvis Presley,” as Ribowsky asserts? With a string of superb hit singles, the Supremes were enormously popular, despite misses and negligible albums. And several years before the Jackson 5, they were the acceptable face of soul music on American television, making them one of the spearheads for Motown’s crossover dreams. Important, sure, but more than, say, Smokey Robinson? Ribowsky never entirely proves his case.