Mary Wilson (March 6, 1944 – February 8, 2021) was an American singer and concert performer best known as a founding member of the Supremes, the most successful Motown act of the 1960s and the best-charting female group in U.S. history, as well as one of the all-time best-selling girl groups in the world.
Mary Wilson’s career
Wilson, who grew up in a housing project in Detroit, was an original member of the singing group so fundamental to Motown’s popularity, known globally for a string of hits including “Stop! In the Name of Love” and “Back in My Arms Again.”
“The Supremes were always known as the ‘sweethearts of Motown,'” Berry Gordy, founder of the Motown record label, said in a statement. “Mary, along with Diana Ross and Florence Ballard, came to Motown in the early 1960s. After an unprecedented string of No. 1 hit, television, and nightclub bookings, they opened doors for themselves, the other Motown acts, and many, many others. She was a trailblazer, a diva, and will be deeply missed.”
Wilson, Ross, and Ballard rose to fame as a trio, but the group started with four women. Barbara Martin left the group, which Wilson and the others joined as teens. The group signed their first recording contract 60 years ago, in January 1961, Wilson noted in a YouTube video she posted last month.
In the early years of their career, the Supremes claimed a dozen No. 1 single, five of which were consecutive from 1964-1965. “Where Did Our Love Go,” “Baby Love,” “Come See About Me,” “Stop! In the Name of Love” and “Back in My Arms Again,” all topped the charts.
They were inducted in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1988 by Little Richard who called them “the greatest” and said, “there’s never been anything like them.” After Ross left the group for a successful career as a solo artist and actress, Wilson continued with the Supremes and then embarked on a solo career of her own.
Wilson was also the author of several books, including her memoir, “Dreamgirls: My Life as a Supreme.” In 2003, she was named a U.S. cultural ambassador by the State Department, touring the world and talking to young people about the dangers of HIV and AIDS.
Mary Wilson’s Death
Mary Wilson, a founding member of The Supremes, died Monday, February 8, at her home in Las Vegas at the age of 76, her publicist said in a statement. No cause of death was noted in the statement released by the publicist, Jay Schwartz.
“I just woke up to this news,” tweeted Ross on Tuesday. “I am reminded that each day is a gift, I have so many wonderful memories of our time together.”
Here’s the tweet:
I just woke up to this news , my condolences to you Mary’s family ,I am reminded that each day is a gift ,I have so many wonderful memories of our time together “The Supremes ” will live on ,in our hearts 💕
— Ms. Ross (@DianaRoss) February 9, 2021
Wilson’s family asked friends and fans to support the United Negro College Fund or the Humpty Dumpty Institute. The latter group helps in landmine clearance projects around the world. Wilson spoke out about landmines and was a spokesperson for the group.
To a female trailblazer and forever Sweetheart of Motown, who brought many timeless records for generations to come – Thank You.
— Motown Records (@motown) February 9, 2021
I was saddened to learn of Mary Wilson’s death. I had the opportunity to work with her in 1997. She was a marvelous performer and a great person. She always had a nice word to say to the members of the band. RIP Mary.🙏
— Jim (@JimKa3ceb) February 9, 2021
So sad to hear of the death of Mary Wilson at 76.Founder member of one of my favourite groups The Supremes. RIP Mary💔 pic.twitter.com/X70f5Nj9dY
— ❤ Chris Howley ❤ (@ChrisHowley6) February 9, 2021
Sad news today to hear of Mary Wilson of The Supremes death. I worked with her a few years ago and was given a front row performance of song and the stories of her life. RIP. pic.twitter.com/cbney96pgl
— Crest Photography (@SimonCrestphoto) February 9, 2021
Very sorry to hear of the death of singer Mary Wilson, the singer with the Supremes who brought us some of the greatest records of all our youths .. RIP pic.twitter.com/15ru3AW5aT
— Mike Parry (@mikeparry8) February 9, 2021
So sad to hear about the death of Mary Wilson. I vividly remember seeing The Supremes on TV when I was about 7 or 8 and, although Diana was the main focus, I was mesmerised by Mary. I thought she was the most beautiful person I’d ever seen. pic.twitter.com/POxOcujl8W
— Graham P (@gwpurnell) February 9, 2021
Really really shocked at the death of Mary Wilson, an icon and an amazing talent. And she had just announced a new album was coming only a few days ago. RIP.
— Lewis (@lewispringle) February 9, 2021
MAY HER SOUL REST IN PEACE.