The #1 Albums: “Diana Ross and the Supremes’ Greatest Hits”

After an amazing run of success, the Supremes ended 1967 positioned for even bigger things.

I quit buying 45s when I was 13 years old. After that, I considered myself an album consumer, but that sometimes created an economic conundrum: when a cool new song came on the radio, I had to decide whether to risk buying the album it was on. My liquidity was limited to my allowance and whatever I could scrape up by other means, so putting down $6.98 (or whatever it was back then) was a serious step. If the rest of the album sucked, I would be stuck with it, and yes, I got stuck a few times.

There were other options. There was continuing to dig the song on the radio for free, which I frequently did. The other option was to wait until the artist’s greatest hits album came out. One’s patience would often be rewarded—you could snag a lot of great songs for that same $6.98.

In 1967, no act this side of the Beatles was more ripe for the greatest hits treatment than the Supremes. In September, Motown released a two-disc compilation titled Diana Ross and the Supremes’ Greatest Hits. It contained 10 singles that had reached #1 in the last three years, several of them among the finest records made by anybody, anywhere, anytime: “Where Did Our Love Go,” “Stop! In the Name of Love,” “You Can’t Hurry Love,” and “Back in My Arms Again” among them.

The album represented a major milestone in the group’s career—and also spoke of major changes already begun. None of the songs on the album had been billed to Diana Ross and the Supremes when they first appeared—that billing was new with this album. Similarly, Florence Ballard had sung on all of them and appears on the album cover, but she was out of the group by the time the album came out.

Even the previously unreleased single from the album, “The Happening,” featured Flo. According to Wikipedia, the new single was supposed to be “Reflections,” but it was held back at the last minute and left off the album—a good move in retrospect. “Reflections,” with its electronics effects and its ominous, simmering vibe, also points the way to the Supremes, and to Motown’s future. Without it, Diana Ross and the Supremes’ Greatest Hits is a remarkable document of where that group and the label had been.

The album has long since been replaced by other Supremes compilations, but upon its release it joined Supremes A-Go-Go as the group’s (and Motown’s) second #1 album in almost exactly a year. It hit #1 in Billboard on November 28, 1967, and stayed there for five weeks.

  • M. Bolton

    How did this album hit #1? They totally ripped off Destiny’s Child look and sound

  • M. Bolton

    How did this album hit #1? They totally ripped off Destiny’s Child look and sound

  • Luis Boki

    As further proof of The Supremes enduring popularity, prior to their “Greatest Hits” hitting the summit in the U.S. and internationally, the ladies already held the record for the highest charting album by a female group, “Where Did Our Love Go” ever! Their “Greatest Hits” went onto sell nearly 6 million units in the states alone. Like their male counterparts, The Beatles, they also had a number of popular B-sides. Songs like “Ask Any Girl” flip of the #1, “Where Did Our Love Go”, “Whisper You Love Me Boy” and the flip side of “My World is Empty Without You”, “Everything’s Good About You”. The ladies would continue breaking records by garnering a 2nd #1 album, in the studio recording, “A Go-Go”. They would retain that record until the 90s when yet another wave of girl groups dominated the charts. Though The Supremes post 20 million in album sales, extrapolated into today’s numbers would be $125 million easily making them still the best selling female group of all time. They also clocked 12 #1 singles and a total of 3/4 #1 albums (Billboard credits 3, while Cashbox ranked “Join the Temptations” as a 4th #1). The Supremes recently received a Double Platinum success with their 2007, “Reflections: The Definitive Performances” DVD and their “#1s” album also has sold another 1 million copies certified in 2011-2012.

  • andre mcilwain

    How did this album rip off Destiny’s Child when thy hadn’t been born?

  • DwDunphy

    That’s why it’s funny.

  • Luis Boki

    That would be 125 mil units not dollars.