Mary Wilson, the co-founder and longest-lasting member of legendary Motown group The Supremes, died Feb. 8, 2021 at her home in Las Vegas. She was 76.
A cause of death was not immediately disclosed, although her publicist announced that she had passed suddenly.
Together with Diana Ross and Florence Ballard in 1959, Wilson formed a singing group in Detroit known initially as The Primettes but recognized the world over as The Supremes. Their failure to produce hit singles was something of a joke in the offices of Motown Records until Berry Gordy paired the group with the writing-production team of Brian and Eddie Holland and Lamont Dozier. Starting with "Where Did Our Love Go" in 1964, the group put a dozen singles on top of the Billboard Hot 100, including "Baby Love," "Come See About Me," "Stop! In the Name of Love," "You Can't Hurry Love" and "You Keep Me Hangin' On."
In 1967, the group was renamed Diana Ross & The Supremes, replacing Ballard with Cindy Birdsong. Ross herself exited the group for a solo career in 1970, and Wilson helped shepherd a changing line-up of the group through 1977. In the early '70s, The Supremes recorded hit singles like "Up the Ladder to the Roof," "Stoned Love" and "Floy Joy."
In 1986, Wilson divulged her rocky relationship with Ross in the bestselling memoir Dreamgirl: My Life as a Supreme. An attempt to reunite the Ross-Wilson-Birdsong lineup in 1999 was unsuccessful. Wilson remained prominent as a writer (publishing three other books), musical activist, and even a contestant on Dancing with the Stars in 2019. Days before her death, she reported that she was working with Motown to make unreleased solo music of hers available for the first time.
A number of collaborators and fans have reacted to the news of her passing.
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
A Loved Supreme. Goodbye Mary Wilson...The Dreamgirl. https://t.co/CEl2tP9laS— Director ?uestlove (@questlove) February 9, 2021
The world has lost one of its greatest legends, Mary Wilson, original and founding member of the Supremes. pic.twitter.com/KJzNutx9lQ— Classic Motown (@ClassicMotown) February 9, 2021
OMG! Mary Wilson of the Supremes has died suddenly. I was just on a Zoom call with her Wednesday for about an hour & never could have imagined this. So full of life & great stories. Absolutely shocked. Rest In Supreme Peace Mary. https://t.co/E9CmwF1Hum— Paul Stanley (@PaulStanleyLive) February 9, 2021