It was 51 years ago today (September 17th, 1968) that Diana Ross & the Supremes recorded their Number One hit, “Love Child.” The song was the group's 11th chart topper, and a bit of a departure for the group, as it focused on a relationship resulting in an out-of-wedlock pregnancy and marked the first Supremes hit not written by longtime songwriters Holland-Dozier-Holland. “Love Child” is also notable for being one of the first songs to only feature Ross on the recording, with fellow Supremes Mary Wilson and Cindy Birdsong replaced by background singers on the session.
All three ladies were present on September 29th, 1968, when the group performed the song on The Ed Sullivan Show. However, instead of performing in the group's trademark glamorous make-up and gowns, they were seen performing in sweatshirts, cut-offs, and bare feet to drive home the inner-city nature of the song.
Mary Wilson told us that even during the group's heyday, Motown was one of the cleanest record labels in regard to drug use in the '60s: “We probably fared better than most people, most artists in that time frame. I mean, you would think that there would be more casualties, but there really weren't. I mean, as the time went by, late '60s, then, y'know, people did become more involved in that type of behavior, y'know — myself included. But early on, we were really quite good.”
“Love Child” hit Number One on November 30th, 1968 and held the top spot for two weeks before Motown labelmate Marvin Gaye knocked the song from Number One with “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” — which went on to top the charts for seven straight weeks.