“Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand)” was the debut solo single of Motown singer Diana Ross, released in April 1970.
Ross, having just left The Supremes after a decade of serving as that group’s lead singer, went through a difficult situation trying to piece a solo album together. With Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson writing and producing for her, and Paul Riser arranging, Ross recorded “Reach Out and Touch”, which carried a heavy gospel influence, and was one of the few songs the singer recorded to express her social conscience, previously experimented with Supremes singles such as “Love Child” and “I’m Livin’ in Shame.”
“Reach Out and Touch” peaked at #20 on the Billboard Hot 100, #10 on the Cash Box Top 100, and #7 on the R&B charts with 500,000 copies sold. It was also a hit in Great Britain, making #33 on the UK Singles Chart in August 1970. While the song’s initial success fell short of expectations, “Reach Out and Touch” became one of Ross’ most popular and notable songs. During her concert performances of the song, Ross often had the whole crowd turn to their neighbors, and “reach out and touch” their hands.
On Saturday, July 28, 1984 Vicki McClure sang “Reach Out and Touch” before an estimated TV audience of 2.5 billion people during the Opening Ceremonies of the 1984 Summer Olympic Games held in Los Angeles, CA.
Ashford and Simpson would perform the song with Teddy Pendergrass in the Philadelphia portion of Live Aid in 1985. In 2005, Ross would perform the song in closing, Tsunami Aid: A Concert of Hope.
In 1970, the same year that Diana released “Reach Out and Touch” as her first solo single, ironically the song was also covered by the group that she had just left at the start of that year, The Supremes (now fronted by Jean Terrell, along with other members Mary Wilson and Cindy Birdsong). The Supremes’ version was a duet with fellow Motown Records artists The Four Tops on the two group’s joint album “The Magnificent Seven,” released by Motown toward the end of 1970. In one of her autobiographies, Mary Wilson mentioned that some fans at the post-Ross Supremes’ concerts used to call out requesting that The Supremes would sing this record live, as some fans erroneously recalled that it had been The Supremes’ version, and not Ross’s, that had charted as a hit Billboard single in early ’70.
She also performed this song as the finale for the Nobel Peace Prize Concert held in Oslo, Norway, in 2008.