Mary Wilson, the legendary member of the Supremes’, passed away on Feb. 9 in her home in Las Vegas. Her cause of death was not immediately apparent. She was 76. The Supremes helped shape the sound of Motown in the 1960s. Known for their polished gowns and hairstyles, the group influenced a generation. With hits such as “Where did our love go,” “Baby Love,” “You can’t hurry love,” and so many more, the music of the Supremes made them one of the best-selling girl groups of all time. The Supremes were inducted into the Rock and Roll hall of fame in 1988.
Mary Wilson was born in Mississippi and moved to Chicago. At age three, she moved to Detroit, living in a housing project. It was there that she met future Supreme Florence Ballard. After performing in talent shows in Detroit, she auditioned for a group known as the Primettes. It was in that group she met Diana Ross. After signing with Motown Records, Berry Gordy changed their name to The Supremes. The Supremes went on to have several number 1 hits and established themselves as the premier girl group in the 60s. Wilson left the group in 1977.
Following her departure, Mary Wilson released her memoir, “Dreamgirl: My Life as a Supreme.” The book became a national bestseller. She released a second memoir in 1990. Most recently, she traveled to Washington D.C. to lobby for the Music Modernization Act and appeared on a season of Dancing with the Stars.
Berry Gordy and Diana Ross expressed their condolences upon hearing of her passing. “I am reminded that each day is a gift…I have so many wonderful memories of our time together,” Ross said in a Tweet.
“I was extremely shocked and saddened to hear of the passing of a major member of the Motown family, Mary Wilson of the Supremes. 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.”-Statement from Berry Gordy.
Mary Wilson is survived by her daughter, Turkessa, son, Pedro Antonio, Jr, siblings, Kathryn and Roosevelt, seven grandchildren, and a great-grandchild. Her publicist said funeral services would be private due to COVID, but a public memorial will be planned later in the year.
Danielle Sanders is a journalist and writer living on the Southside of Chicago. Find her on social media @DanieSandersOfficial.