The Supremes Co-Founder Mary Wilson 1944 – 2021
Mary Wilson, who co-founded the renowned Motown singing group The Supremes, has died at the age of 76. Wilson “passed away suddenly” Monday evening at her home in Henderson, Nevada, according to a statement from Wilson’s publicist Jay Schwartz. A cause of death was not revealed.
Wilson was born on March 6, 1944, in Greenville, Mississippi. After moving at a young age, by adolescence Wilson had settled in Detroit. In 1961, Wilson, Diana Ross and Florence Ballard, who had been singing together as The Primettes, changed the name of their group The Supremes and were signed by Berry Gordy to Detroit’s Motown Records.
The Supremes’ first of 12 No. 1 hits came with 1964’s “Where Did Our Love Go.” The Supremes had further success for Motown with “Baby Love,” “Come See About Me,” “Stop! In The Name Of Love,” “Back In My Arms Again” and “I Hear A Symphony.” The group had additional popular releases with “You Can’t Hurry Love,” “You Keep Me Hanging On,” “Love Is Here and Now You’re Gone,” “Reflections” and “Love Child.”
Cindy Birdsong replaced Ballard in 1967, with several personnel changes coming in subsequent years including Ross’ exit in 1970. In 1977, The Supremes disbanded as Wilson was the only original member of the legendary group.
Motown issued Wilson’s self-titled, debut solo album in 1979. Wilson and The Supremes were inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 1988. Later years saw Wilson continue to pursue other endeavors, write memoirs and perform regularly in Las Vegas. Wilson’s second solo album, Walk The Line came out in 1992.
Wilson’s single “Life’s Been Good to Me” was issued in 2011 and “Darling Mother (Johnnie Mae)” followed in 2013. Wilson released the single “Time to Move On” in 2015. As Variety noted, Wilson posted a message on YouTube days ago indicating she intended to release new solo recordings, including her shelved 1970 album Red Hot, with hopes of release by what would have been her birthday on March 6.
Gordy issued the following statement to Variety:
I was extremely shocked and saddened to hear of the passing of a major member of the Motown family, Mary Wilson of the Supreme. The Supremes were always known as the “sweethearts of Motown.” Mary, along with Diana Ross and Florence Ballard, came to Motown in the early 1960s. After an unprecedented string of No. 1 hits, television and nightclub bookings, they opened doors for themselves, the other Motown acts, and many, many others. I was always proud of Mary. She was quite a star in her own right and over the years continued to work hard to boost the legacy of the Supremes. Mary Wilson was extremely special to me. She was a trailblazer, a diva and will be deeply missed.
Diana Ross’ shared her condolences, posting: