b. Florence Glenda Ballard (a.k.a. Florence Ballard Chapman), 30th June 1943, Detroit, Michigan, U.S.A.
d. 22nd February 1976, Detroit, Michigan, U.S.A.
Florence Ballard is best remembered as being part of the original line-up of the Motown female group, the Supremes.
Florence was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1943.
She was the daughter of Lurlee and Jesse Ballard.
Lurlee Ballard hailed from Mississippi, whilst Jesse Ballard was from Alabama.
Florence’s family relocated to Detroit in 1929.
Jesse worked at General Motors in Detroit.
Florence was the eighth of thirteen children.
Times were hard for the family, who moved from home to home in Detroit, until they settled in the Brewster-Douglass housing projects.
Florence was 15 by the time they arrived at the Projects, sadly a year later, her father died.
She later attended Northeastern High School, where was vocally coached by Abraham Silver.
Whilst at the school, Florence met Mary Wilson and they became friends.
In 1959, Florence was spotted by a talent scout named Milton Jenkins, who was looking to recruit young women for a female version of the group the Primes (later to become the Temptations).
Florence recommended Mary Wilson to Milton, who, in turn, recommended her neighbour, Diane Ross.
The Primettes: Barbara Martin, Mary Wilson, Diane Ross, and Florence Ballard
Betty McGlown completed the original lineup and the woman became known as the Primettes.
The Primettes auditioned for Motown Records founder Berry Gordy, who suggested they complete their schooling before joining his label.
Florence was then the subject of a rape by a basketball player, turning Florence into something of a recluse.
She summoned up the courage to inform the other members of the Primettes, however, Mary Wilson believed the rape incident contributed to her mistrust of other later in life.
As the Supremes career spiralled upwardly, Florence had become very depressed.
It was her belief that the politics of fame, had separated her from her once, close, friends.
Florence began drinking heavily, and began falling out badly with her other group members.
She also had many disputes with Berry Gordy, feeling that the group had become ‘too white’ in sound.
In 1966, Berry responded by giving the lead singer role in the group to Diana Ross.
Florence’s depression furthered, with her gaining weight and missing performances and some recording sessions.
These sessions saw Cindy Birdsong taking on the role vacated by Florence.
In 1967, the Detroit Free Press reported that Florence had taken a temporary leave of absence from the group due to "exhaustion".
Florence married in 1968, and her contract with Motown was eventually finalised.
She signed with ABC Records in the same year, releasing two solo singles with the label.
it doesn't matter how I say it b/w going out of my head - 1968 / love ain't love b/w forever faithful - 1968
These were ‘It Doesn't Matter How I Say It (It's What I Say That Matters)’b/w 'Going Out Of My Head' and ‘Love Ain't Love’ b/w 'Forever Faithful'.
The singles did not sell well, and a proposed album release was shelved.
Florence continued to perform as a solo artist, opening for Bill Cosby at Chicago's Auditorium Theater.
Later in 1968, Florence gave birth to twin daughters Michelle and Nicole.
The following year, Florence performed at one of the new President Richard Nixon's inaugural balls.
Florence departed ABC Records in 1970.
In 1971, she took Motown to court again, in search of further unpaid royalties.
Florence gave birth to her third daughter, Lisa in 1972.
She and her husband separated after several domestic disputes, her home was foreclosed, with Florence becoming reliant on alcohol to cope with her misfortunes.
Florence moved in with her sister.
Florence did show for a couple of shows, but was reluctant to sing, instead just playing the tamourine.
When she applied for welfare, she also checked in to the Henry Ford Hospital for rehab treatment.
Florence made a patient recovery, and in 1975, Florence received an insurance settlement, which helped her buy a home in Detroit's Shaftsbury Avenue.
Her upturn in fortunes encouraged her back into singing, performing at the Henry and Edsel Ford Auditorium in Detroit that year.
Florence began talks regarding signing a new record deal, when she was admitted into the Mt. Carmel Mercy Hospital.
She complained of numbness in her extremities, passing away the following morning from a cardiac arrest, caused by a coronary thrombosis.
Florence died at the early age of 32.
Florence is buried in Detroit Memorial Park Cemetery, Warren, Michigan.
The musical ‘Dreamgirls’ was widely regarded as an ‘alleged autobiography’ of the Supremes career, drawing very similar parallels with the group.
Jennifer Hudson (who won a Golden Globe Award and Academy Award for her portrayal of Effie White in the film) dedicating her win to Florence Ballard.
Florence Ballard was posthumously inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Supremes in 1988.
the supreme florence ballard - 2001
The Supreme Florence Ballard (Spectrum Records 2001)