Barbara Diane Martin Richardson (June 1, 1943 – March 4, 2020) was born in Detroit and was an American singer, best known for being one of the original members of legendary Motown group The Supremes.
After Betty McGlown left the Primettes, as she was getting married, Barbara Martin replaced her in the group in 1960. She and her group mates, Diana Ross (then known as Diane), Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard, signed a recording contract with Motown founder Berry Gordy on January 15, 1961 as the Supremes, a name that Ballard had chosen (as she was the only group member in the studio at the time) from a list provided by Motown songwriter, Janie Bradford, and became part of the Motown stable of performers.
While recording a handful of early singles, none of which became hits, Martin, Wilson, Ross, and Ballard worked as studio backing singers, providing vocals and rhythmic effects such as hand claps for Motown’s leading groups.
The Supremes were the most commercially successful of Motown’s acts and are, to date, America’s most successful vocal group with 12 number one singles on the Billboard Hot 100. Most of these hits were written and produced by Motown’s main song writing and production team, Holland–Dozier–Holland. At their peak in the mid-1960s, the Supremes rivalled the Beatles in worldwide popularity, and it is said that their success made it possible for future African American R&B and soul musicians to find mainstream success
In October 1961, Martin got pregnant. Her husband supported her decision to stay in the group, but, she left in the early spring of 1962 – leaving Ross, Wilson and Ballard a trio.
Although Barbara Martin sang on many of the group’s early singles, including a shared lead vocal with Diana Ross on “(He’s) Seventeen”, and most of the tracks on the group’s first album, Meet The Supremes, she is not pictured on the album’s cover.
She never spoke publicly about her time with the Primettes/Supremes. She refused to do interviews over the years with the exception of one interview she gave in 2009 for the 2010 release of “Meet the Supremes: Expanded Edition”.
Barbara Martin died in March 2020, aged 76.
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