Mary Wilson, an original member of Motown’s legendary group The Supremes, has died at age 76.
The singer’s longtime publicist, Jay Schwartz, told CNN that she “passed away suddenly” in her Las Vegas home Monday evening, but did not provide further details.
The trailblazing ’60s Motown group, now viewed as instrumental in the record company’s popularity, released countless hits including “Where Did Our Love Go”, “Baby Love”, “Come See About Me”, “Stop! In the Name of Love” and “Back in My Arms Again” according to Billboard Magazine. In 2018, Billboard celebrated the 60th anniversary of Motown with a list of “The Hot 100’s Top Artists of All Time”, where The Supremes ranked at #16 and still remain the #1 female recording group of all time. January 21, 2021 marked the 60th anniversary of the day The Supremes signed with Motown in 1961. This year, Mary kicked off the celebration of the 60th anniversary of The Supremes.
Wilson was born Mar. 6, 1944, in Greenville, Miss.; not long after her birth, her parents headed to St. Louis and then Chicago for better opportunities, but separated soon after. As a three-year-old, Wilson was sent to Detroit to live with her aunt and uncle. As she told the Wall Street Journal last May, she believed that they were her biological parents for much of her childhood, until her mother arrived in Detroit when she was 10.
She lived in the Brewster-Douglass Projects, where she met fellow singers Diana Ross, Florence Ballard and Betty McGlown. By the time she was 15, they had become a group called the Primettes.
Ross coaxed her former neighbor, Smokey Robinson, to introduce them to hitmaker Berry Gordy and his Motown label, but Gordy thought they were too young to sign. The teenagers refused to let that stop them; they hung around his Hitsville USA studio until he let them appear on other people’s records, doing handclaps and backing vocals.
With singer Barbara Martin replacing McGlown, they finally signed with Gordy’s Motown label as The Supremes in 1961.
“I was extremely shocked and saddened to hear of the passing of a major member of the Motown family, Mary Wilson. The Supremes were always known as the ‘Sweethearts of Motown,’ ” Berry Gordy, founder of the Motown record label, said in a statement.
The Supremes frontwoman, Diana Ross, paid tribute to her fellow original member.
Ross tweeted on Tuesday morning that she had just woken up to the news of Wilson’s death. Wilson died at her home in Nevada, her publicist said. No cause of death was given.
“My condolences to Mary’s family,” Ross wrote. “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,” the iconic singer added.
Wilson herself said on “The Talk” in 2020 that she and Ross were “family.”
“We started singing 1959, we were just