Mary Wilson, the only member of the Supremes to appear in every lineup of the group, has died at the age of 76, her publicist confirmed.
She was part of the four-piece vocal group that formed as the Primettes in 1959 and appeared on all 12 of their No. 1 hits between 1964 and 1969, including “Where Did Our Love Go,” “Baby Love,” “Come See About Me” and “Stop! In the Name of Love.” The Supremes became Motown’s most successful group of the ‘60s and remain the highest-charting female vocal group in American history.
Wilson, Diana Ross and Florence Ballard attended the same school in Detroit, and started out alongside Betty McGlown in a group designed as a complementary act to the all-male the Primes. They took their new name when they signed to Motown and continued through a series of lineup changes until 1977.
Wilson continued to work, appearing on Dancing With the Stars in 2019 and publishing her fourth memoir that same year. She recently announced the release of a solo album, Red Hot, which has been on the shelf since the ‘70s. She was planning to finally release the record on March 6. Her representative, Jay Schwartz, confirmed Wilson died at home in Nevada but revealed no other details.
Motown Records boss Berry Gordy said in a statement that he was “extremely shocked and saddened” over her death. “The Supremes were always known as the ‘sweethearts of Motown,’” he said. “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.”
“It really was like walking into a Disneyland,” Wilson told The Guardian in 2019 about signing to Motown. “All these creative people. People say, ‘Motown, it was this big building,’ but I always say, ‘No, Motown was always a collaboration between the people, with Berry at the head of course.’”
She said she felt like the label and her former bandmates were “family” despite some animosity in previous years. “We, the Supremes, can’t take all the credit,” she noted. “The writers and producers at Motown gave us the music and sound that people loved. And then there was the glamour. My whole life is like a dream. I tell you – if I were not a Supreme, I would want to be a Supreme. I’m living the dream.”