Mary Wilson, the acclaimed singer and co-founder of the Supremes, has died at the age of 76. Wilson passed away yesterday (February 8) at her home in Las Vegas, her longtime publicist Jay Schwartz confirmed. The cause of death has not been revealed.
Born in Greenville, Mississippi in 1944, Wilson moved to Detroit as a child and became close friends with future Supreme Florence Ballard while singing in their school’s talent show. After auditioning for Milton Jenkins, who was forming a sister group to his male vocal trio, the Primes, the two formed the group known as The Primettes, along with Diana Ross and Betty McGlown. In 1961, they changed their name to the Supremes after signing to Motown Records and the group was reduced to a trio following McGlown’s departure.
The Supremes quickly solidified themselves as Motown’s biggest group of the 60s, scoring 12 number one singles including ‘Where Did Our Love Go’, ‘Stop! In the Name of Love’, ‘I Hear a Symphony’, and ‘You Can’t Hurry Love’. Following a period of tension, Ballard was fired from the group in 1967 and Ross left to pursue a solo career. Wilson remained the lone constant in a rotating lineup from 1972 up until 1979, when the group disbanded.
In addition to her best-selling 1986 memoir, Dreamgirl: My Life as a Supreme, Wilson went on to release two solo albums, 1979’s Mary Wilson and 1992’s Walk the Line, as well as live albums, compilations, and DVDs. She released what was to be her last single, ‘Time to Move On’, in 2015, reaching No. 23 on the Billboard dance chart. Just two days before her death, Wilson uploaded a video on her YouTube channel announcing that she was planning to release more solo material with Universal Music, including an unreleased album she recorded in the 1970s with producer Gus Dudgeon titled Red Hot.
“I was always proud of Mary,” Berry Gordy, founder of Motown, said in a statement. “She was quite a star in her own right and over the years continued to work hard to boost the legacy of the Supremes. … she was a trailblazer, a dive and will be deeply missed.”