The Detroit diva is back.
Diana Ross brings her "More Today Than Yesterday: The Greatest Hits Tour" to Tilles Center Tuesday night for its season opener.
Ross' post-1970 / post-Supremes career has reaped Grammy and Oscar nominations, even lifetime achievement awards. But, like Sir Paul McCartney, who couldn't outshine The Beatles - no one could - Ross never found a voice bigger than hers as a Supreme.
"I've always thought of The Supremes as part of me," she says now - four decades later.
Her most recent CD, "Your Way," was released as part of Motown's 2008-09 50th anniversary celebration. In an interview for her hometown newspaper, she complained, "It's a big struggle to get a release here in America. . . . I find it difficult to connect with heads of record companies. The interest is mostly, as it should be, with younger artists" - Ross is 66 - "and a different musical genre. But I know there's an audience out there for melody and good music. It's almost like you have to pitch who you are, after all those years."
On "Your Way," Ross' rendition of "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" - that early pinnacle to her solo years - brings to mind her determination to sing through the downpour that washed away her 1983 Central Park concert.
Despite her Detroit upbringing and Motown musical roots, Ross' sound was never what you'd call urban. There's not much chance she'll go hip-hop at Tilles. In honor of her Long Island star turn, we present five things you may not know - or have forgotten - about Diana Ross.
1. Before they were The Supremes, the girls from Detroit were known as The Primettes. Although Flo Ballard formed the group and considered herself lead singer - see "Dreamgirls" - it was Ross who arranged the audition with Motown guru Berry Gordy. Her onetime next-door neighbor was Smokey Robinson. The girls took a bus to the audition. They sang "The Twist," "Night Time Is the Right Time" and, with Ross leading, The Drifters' "There Goes My Baby."
2. The year Ross announced she was splitting from The Supremes, Motown introduced another fresh-faced group just in case her solo thing didn't work out for the label. You may remember The Jackson Five.
3. "Someday We'll Be Together" was to be released as a Ross solo. Instead, it became the final Diana Ross and The Supremes single. It also had the distinction of being the last No. 1 American-made hit of the '60s - at a time when British bands still dominated the charts.
4. In 1972, Ross, with Cicely Tyson for "Sounder," became only the second African-Americans to be nominated for best actress Oscars - marking the first time two black actresses were nominated in the same year. Ross portrayed Billie Holiday in "Lady Sings the Blues." Neither she nor Tyson won. Oscar preferred Liza Minnelli in "Cabaret."
5. Diana was not the only achiever among the Ross brood. Big sis Barbara, who once subbed for Diana with the early Supremes, became the first black woman to head a U.S. medical school. Dr. Ross-Lee was appointed dean of Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine in 1993.
Diana's Tilles show
WHAT Diana Ross' "More Today Than Yesterday: The Greatest Hits Tour" concert
INFO $69.50-$149.50; tillescenter.org, 516-299-3100