At Avidly, Spencer Everett writes about Diana Ross & The Supremes and the weight of a late 1969-era performance on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” The group’s official last show would occur less than a month later in Las Vegas, but Everett sees this televised performance as the final act. Alarmingly, they ran through a “medley” of hits on the show that night:
Reducing these songs to their most elemental signatures not only saves (prime) time, and not only stuns us with the concentrated formula derived from what had tenderized us months and years before— the medley is also honest for its sheer economy, because it distills what works and disregards the rest. This central tenement of pop music was realized only sporadically in the previous decade, and Berry Gordy had the vision to pursue it from 1959 because he would not tolerate—as he could not afford—to release anything less than the hits we would live by. And if tonight is December 21st, 1969, as it remained throughout my 90s childhood, then that was ten years ago— both a blink of an eye and infinity away. In a certain narrow sense, then, this main-lined medley is something like the apex of Motown’s formal achievement.
For no real reason other than to recommend them, I think these are the last five Motown releases or Motown-related LPs we’ve played at home:
David Ruffin, My Whole World Ended (Motown, 1969)
Freda Payne, Band of Gold (Invictus, 1970)
Dennis Coffey, Evolution (Sussex, 1971)
The Temptations, Psychedelic Shack (Gordy, 1970)
Marvin Gaye, I Want You (Tamla, 1976)