Entertainment

Remembering the Life and Music of Mary Wilson, Founding Member of the Supremes

Mary Wilson, a founding member of the Supremes, has died at 76. According to a statement released by her longtime friend and publicist, Jay Schwartz, the singer “passed away suddenly” on February 8 at her home in Henderson, Nevada. 

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Schwartz described Wilson as a “trendsetter who broke down social, racial, and gender barriers” and that her work with the Supremes “not only carries on in contemporary R&B, soul, and pop, they also helped pave the way for mainstream success by Black artists across all genres.”

The Supremes recorded their first song for Motown in 1961, but their breakthrough came a few years later in 1964 when “Where Did Our Love Go?” became a hit. Wilson sang on all of the group’s chart-topping songs, including “Stop! In the Name of Love,” “Come See About Me,” “I Hear a Symphony,” “You Can’t Hurry Love,” and “Reflections.” 

Take a look to remember some of those iconic tunes:

“Where Did Our Love Go?” by the Supremes

“Stop! In the Name of Love” by the Supremes

“You Can’t Hurry Love” by the Supremes

Diana Ross, who joined Wilson in what would become the legendary group when they were still young teens, shared her condolences on Twitter this morning: 

Motown founder Berry Gordy also released a statement saying, “I was extremely shocked and saddened to hear of the passing of a major member of the Motown family, Mary Wilson of the Supremes.” He added, “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.”

Mary Wilson and Diana Ross
Mary Wilson and Diana Ross performing together as the Supremes in 1965Getty Images

Wilson was the longest-running member of the Supremes, staying on after Ross left in 1969 and Florence Ballard’s earlier exit in 1967. She was joined by Jean Terrell and Cindy Birdsong (who had previously replaced Ballard) and the re-formed trio scored a number one hit with their 1970 song, “Stoned Love.” 

Aside from singing, Wilson was a best-selling author, who wrote four memoirs about her time with the group: Dreamgirl: My Life As a Supreme (Buy on Amazon, $6.99), Dreamgirl and Supreme Faith: My Life as a Supreme (Buy on Amazon, $19.95), and Supreme Faith: Someday We’ll Be Together (Buy on Amazon, $8.99), and Supreme Glamour (Buy on Amazon, $22.38).

More recently, Wilson appeared on Dancing with the Stars in 2019 and helped pass the Music Modernization Act (MMA) in 2018, which protects music made before 1972 from copyright-related issues with the rising popularity of digital streaming platforms. She also travelled across the globe as a US Cultural Ambassador with the Humpty Dumpty Institute.

Mary Wilson
Mary Wilson at the 28th Annual Elton John AIDS Foundation Academy Awards Viewing Party in 2020Getty Images

Just before her passing, Wilson uploaded a video to her YouTube channel announcing the upcoming release of previously unheard solo material, saying, “Hopefully some of that will be out on my birthday, March 6.” She also mentioned participating in new interviews about the Supremes’ experience with segregation in honor of Black History Month, plus celebrations for the group’s 60th anniversary this year. 

Wilson’s family requests that those mourning her loss consider supporting the Humpty Dumpty Institute and UNCF rather than sending flowers or gifts.

Our thoughts are with Wilson’s family, friends, and fans, may she rest in peace.

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This article originally appeared on our sister site, Woman’s World.

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