The Queen of Motown talks about music and her current tour, which makes a stop in Minneapolis this month.
Diana Ross is all about living in the moment. In her first major interview in nearly a decade, the Queen of Motown glossed over the usual questions about her past and emphasized her immense joy for where her life is right now.
Conveniently, that includes a six-week North American tour and a Twin Cities concert — her first in nine years — Aug. 28 at the Orpheum Theater in Minneapolis. With her, the 69-year-old singer who once performed for nearly a half-million people in New York’s Central Park brings a succession of pop hits spanning decades and genres, plus the fantastical outfits to match.
Q: What’s your biggest responsibility when you’re onstage?
A: When I am performing, I wear many different hats. What I mean by that is, I’m also the producer, the organizer. I am also the parent or mother on the road because I care about everyone and I want to make sure they’re all well. So I try to take care of them. The mothering part of me becomes very much a part of the actual touring.
I also have made really good friends with everyone that I travel with. My keyboard player has been with me the longest. My drummer and bass player are really the backbone of the entire band. I mean, they’re like the heartbeat. They keep us filled with love and enjoying the whole process.
So I’m involved in the selection of the music and, of course, my costumes, and the lighting and the setting, and the interaction between my band and the audience. I have always been very interested in the precision of the work — the harmony of what we do. It all has to work together.
Q: Having become accustomed to performing in stadiums, do you enjoy the challenge of playing smaller rooms?
A: I’m very clear — it does not matter to me if I’m in a stadium with thousands of people or in a much smaller venue. My interaction is with the audience on a one-to-one. I always try to see their faces and try to see their eyes. I perform and sing to them.
It’s usually never about us and the audience. It’s that harmonious vibration, good energy that flows back and forth between the audience and myself and the band and the music. It’s a wonderful thing about music. Music is like love. It feels good. It’s about sharing. It’s very special. Music is like the heartbeat of our world.
Q: Looking back on your career, it seems as if you never did things simply for the money — you were always motivated by pushing things forward creatively. Do you still have the same relationship with your work?
A: I do what I do, No. 1, because I love it. I really, since I was a little girl, have always loved to sing and perform. The one thing I have never understood is searching for fame. You do the work that you do — and, by the way, I almost cannot call it work — you do what you do because you love it. Most musicians are all the same as this. They’re not doing what they do to become “famous.”
I have said in the past, fame is not a career. Your career is to share of your God-given gift. That is the thing that makes you happy. We get a chance to perform our passion — to do the thing that we love.
Q: How do you manage to keep the standards, such as “Where Did Our Love Go?” and “Baby Love,” fresh for yourself and different audiences?
A: Every time I do music from the early days or music like that, it’s just the song itself or the music itself — it has melody and it just resonates with all audiences. And when I’m performing it, they become like a brand-new song.
Q: How would you like to be remembered?
A: I have always felt that it is more important to stay present, to stay in the moment, to stay now. I never try to think about legacy and being remembered. For me, if I could live a good life now, if I could do the things that bring me joy, if I could enjoy my children and enjoy the weather or whatever it might be, that is love and that is my life.
As far as my stage show, I’ve always tried to keep the emphasis on the music. I want very much, when the audience comes in to see the show, there’s a good sound. If we keep our attention on presenting good music with a good sound and, of course, good visuals, that is really what the show is all about. It’s about the music people come to hear and to have their own private, personal memories about each of the songs.
That is really the exciting part of being onstage at this time in my life.