8 Surprising Facts About Diana Ross

Emma McIntyre, Getty Images
Emma McIntyre, Getty Images

Not many artists can claim a career that spans six decades, but singer Diana Ross can. The recording artist, who turned 75 on March 26, emerged as part of The Supremes in the 1960s before going solo with a series of hits like “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and “I’m Coming Out.” She's not quite done, either.

Following a birthday tribute at this year's Grammy Awards in February, Ross hit the road for yet another tour, which she's in the midst of right now. While the world celebrates the contributions Ross has made to the music world, we’re taking a look back at the life and work of one of the music industry’s most celebrated—and prolific—voices.

1. Diana Ross grew up in a talented neighborhood.

Born March 26, 1944 in Detroit, Michigan, Diana Ross was raised in the Brewster-Douglass Projects, a low-income housing facility in the city. One of her neighbors was Smokey Robinson, who would go on to become one of the signature performers for producer Berry Gordy’s Motown record label. It was Robinson who introduced Ross to Gordy when Ross decided to form an all-girl singing group, The Primettes, with friends Mary Wilson, Florence Ballard, and Betty McGlown. (A singer named Barbara Martin later replaced McGlown, though Martin soon left and made the quartet a trio.) The Primettes signed with Motown after the young women graduated high school in 1961.

2. The Supremes weren't an immediate hit.

Despite the seemingly magical touch of Gordy and a name change from The Primettes to The Supremes, neither Ross nor her band was not an overnight success. In the halls of Motown, producers and other acts referred to the group as the “No-Hit Supremes” due to their lack of commercial success. It would take three years before the women broke out with “Where Did Our Love Go?” It was the first of five consecutive number-one singles—including “Baby Love” and “Come See About Me”—that The Supremes would record between July 1964 and May 1965.

3. She got booed at a funeral.

Like many acts, success found The Supremes at the beginning of a bumpy road. Ballard was fired in 1967, the same year Gordy changed the name of the group to Diana Ross & The Supremes. With Ross’s star eclipsing those of the other members, in 1969 she announced that she would be moving on to a solo career. At Ballard’s funeral in 1976, Ross emerged from a limousine with bodyguards, an ostentatious appearance that led fans gathered outside to boo her.

4. A Supremes reunion didn’t go very well.

Ross got together with The Supremes for a reunion tour in 2000, but it wasn’t quite what fans expected. Instead of performing with Wilson or Cindy Birdsong, who was a later addition to the group, Ross opted to appear with Scherrie Payne and Lynda Laurence, who joined after Ross had already left. (Wilson and Birdsong turned down a reported $3 million each, less than the $15 to $20 million Ross was expected to earn.) Owing to sluggish ticket sales, the concert promoter canceled the tour with just 14 dates remaining.

5. She performed for nearly half a million people in Central Park.

In a testament to the popularity of Ross as a solo artist, the singer attracted an estimated 350,000 to 400,000 people for a performance on Central Park’s Great Lawn on July 21, 1983. The concert, which was intended to raise money for the City Parks Department as well as a children’s playground at West 81st Street, hit a snag early when a rainstorm forced the crowd to disperse just 25 minutes into the performance. Ross tried to convince them to remain, but when the storm grew worse, she compelled them to leave in an orderly manner. Ross performed a makeup concert the following night for approximately 350,000 people. When both the city and the production lost money on the cancellation, Ross donated $250,000 toward the playground out of her own pocket.

6. She was going to star in The Bodyguard.

After her solo career took off, Ross tried her hand at acting. In 1976, screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan wrote The Bodyguard, about the romantic entanglement between a pop star and her personal security detail. Ross was supposed to star as the singer, with Steve McQueen playing the bodyguard. The project never came together with those two actors. Instead, it was made with Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner in 1992. In real life, one of Ross’s bodyguards was former bouncer Lawrence Tureaud, better known as Mr. T.

7. A “lost” Ross album finally surfaced in 2015.

One of Ross’s most notable acting roles was as Dorothy in The Wiz, a 1978 reimagining of The Wizard of Oz, which was produced by Berry Gordy. Ross recorded a tie-in album, Diana Ross Sings Songs From the Wiz, which was expected to be released in 1979. After the film failed to perform at the box office, Motown cancelled the album’s release. It wasn’t made publicly available until 2015.

8. She won a long-overdue Grammy in 2012.

Although Ross has been nominated for 12 Grammy awards, she has never won. That somewhat inexplicable statistic changed in 2012, when Ross received a Lifetime Achievement Award. Early this year, she appeared at the 61st annual Grammys for a performance commemorating her 75th birthday.

Amazon's Under-the-Radar Coupon Page Features Deals on Home Goods, Electronics, and Groceries

Stock Catalog, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Stock Catalog, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Now that Prime Day is over, and with Black Friday and Cyber Monday still a few weeks away, online deals may seem harder to come by. And while it can be a hassle to scour the internet for promo codes, buy-one-get-one deals, and flash sales, Amazon actually has an extensive coupon page you might not know about that features deals to look through every day.

As pointed out by People, the coupon page breaks deals down by categories, like electronics, home & kitchen, and groceries (the coupons even work with SNAP benefits). Since most of the deals revolve around the essentials, it's easy to stock up on items like Cottonelle toilet paper, Tide Pods, Cascade dishwasher detergent, and a 50 pack of surgical masks whenever you're running low.

But the low prices don't just stop at necessities. If you’re looking for the best deal on headphones, all you have to do is go to the electronics coupon page and it will bring up a deal on these COWIN E7 PRO noise-canceling headphones, which are now $80, thanks to a $10 coupon you could have missed.

Alternatively, if you are looking for deals on specific brands, you can search for their coupons from the page. So if you've had your eye on the Homall S-Racer gaming chair, you’ll find there's currently a coupon that saves you 5 percent, thanks to a simple search.

To discover all the deals you have been missing out on, head over to the Amazon Coupons page.

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7 People Killed by Musical Instruments

On occasion, a piano has been a literal instrument of death.
On occasion, a piano has been a literal instrument of death.
Pixabay, Pexels // Public Domain

We’re used to taking it figuratively. One “slays” on guitar, is a “killer” pianist, or wants to “die” listening to a miraculous piece of music. History, though, is surprisingly rich with examples of people actually killed by musical instruments. Some were bludgeoned and some crushed; others were snuffed out by the sheer effort of performing or while an instrument was devilishly played to cover up the crime. Below are seven people who met their end thanks to a musical instrument.

1. Elizabeth Jackson // Struck with a Flute

A German flute.The Crosby Brown Collection of Musical Instruments (1889), Metropolitan Museum of Art // Public Domain

David Mills was practicing his flute the night of March 25, 1751, when he got into a heated argument with fellow servant Elizabeth Jackson. A woman “given to passion,” she threw a candlestick at Mills after he said something rude. He retaliated by striking her left temple with his flute before the porter and the footman pulled them apart. Jackson lived for another four hours, able to walk but not make sensible speech. Her fellow servants decided to bleed her, a sadly ineffective treatment for skull fractures. “Her s[k]ull was remarkably thin,” the surgeon testified at Mills’s trial.

2. Louis Vierne // Exhausted by an Organ Recital

Louis Vierne plays the organ of St.-Nicolas du Chardonnet in Paris, France.Source: gallica.bnf.fr, Bibliothèque nationale de France // Public Domain

Reputed to be the king of instruments, the organ requires a performer with an athletic endurance—more than 67-year-old Louis Vierne had to give during a recital at Notre Dame cathedral on June 2, 1937. He collapsed (likely of a heart attack) after playing the last chord of a piece. With a Gallic appreciation for tragedy, one concertgoer noted the piece “bears a title which, given the circumstance, seems like fate and takes on an oddly disturbing meaning: ‘Tombstone for a dead child’!” As Vierne’s lifeless feet fell upon the pedalboard “a low whimper was heard from the admirable instrument, which seemed to weep for its master,” the concertgoer wrote.

3. James “Jimmy the Beard” Ferrozzo // Crushed by a Piano

The exterior of the Condor Club in 1973.Michael Holley, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Getting crushed by a piano is usually the stuff of cartoons, but what happened to James Ferrozzo is somehow even stranger than a cartoon. “A nude, screaming dancer found trapped under a man’s crushed body on a trick piano pinned against a nightclub ceiling was too drunk to remember how she got there,” the AP reported the day after the 1983 incident. The dancer was a new employee at San Francisco’s Condor Club (said to be one of the first, if not the first, topless bar). The man was her boyfriend, the club’s bouncer. And the trick piano was part of topless-dancing pioneer Carol Doda’s act—a white baby grand that lowered her from the second floor. During Ferrozzo’s assignation with the dancer, the piano’s switch was somehow activated, lifting him partway to heaven before deadly contact with the ceiling sent him the rest of the way.

4. Linos // Killed with a Lyre

A student and his music teacher, holding a lyre—potentially Herakles and Linos.Petit Palais, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.5

One of the greatest music teachers of mythic Ancient Greece, Linos took on Herakles as a pupil. According to the historian Diodorus Siculus, the demi-god “was unable to appreciate what was taught him because of his sluggishness of soul,” and so after a harsh reprimand he flew into a rage and beat Linos to death with his lyre. Herakles dubiously used a sort of ancient stand-your-ground law as a defense during trial and was exonerated. Poor Linos: an honest man beaten by a lyre.

5. Sophia Rasch // Suffocated While a Piano Muffled her Screams

Pixabay, Pexels

No one better proves George Bernard Shaw’s quip that “hell is full of musical amateurs” than Susannah Koczula. “I have seen Susannah trying to play the piano several times—she could not play,” 10-year-old Carl Rasch testified at Koczula’s 1894 trial. Susannah, the Rasch’s caregiver, distracted little Carl, sister Clara, and their neighborhood friend Woolf with an impromptu performance while a gruesome scene unfolded upstairs: Koczula’s husband tied and suffocated Carl and Clara’s mother, Sophia Rasch, before making off with her jewelry. “She banged the piano,” explained Woolf. “I heard no halloaing.”

6. Marianne Kirchgessner // A Nervous Disorder Acquired Playing the Glass Armonica

According to one doctor, Ben Franklin's instrument caused "a great degree of nervous weakness."Ji-Elle, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Benjamin Franklin invented the glass harmonica, or armonica, in 1761, unleashing a deadly scourge upon the musical world. “It was forbidden in several countries by the police,” wrote music historian Karl Pohl in 1862, while Karl Leopold Röllig warned in 1787 that “It’s not just the gentle waves of air that fill the ear, but the charming vibrations and constant strain of the bowls upon the already delicate nerves of the fingers that combine to produce diseases which are terrible, maybe even fatal.” In 1808, when Marianne Kirchgessner, Europe’s premiere glass armonica virtuoso, died at the age of 39, many suspected nervousness brought on by playing the instrument.

7. Charles Ratherbee // Lung Disease Possibly Caused by Playing the Trumpet

A valve trumpet made by Elbridge G. Wright, circa 1845.Purchase, Robert Alonzo Lehman Bequest (2002), Metropolitan Museum of Art // Public Domain

One summer day in 1845, Charles Ratherbee, a trumpeter, got into a fight with Joseph Harvey, who rented space in a garden from Ratherbee and was sowing seeds where the trumpeter had planned to plant potatoes. When confronted, Harvey became upset and knocked Ratherbee to the ground with his elbow. Two weeks and five days later, Ratherbee was dead.

Harvey was arrested for Ratherbee’s death, but a doctor pinpointed another killer: An undiagnosed lung disease made worse by his musical career. “The blowing of a trumpet would decidedly increase [the disease],” the surgeon testified at Harvey’s manslaughter trial. When asked if he was “in a fit state to blow a trumpet” the surgeon replied bluntly, “No.” Harvey was acquitted and given a suspended sentence for assault. The trumpet was never charged.