Mary Wilson was an American singer and concert performer best known as a founding member of the Supremes.
The Supremes were the most successful Motown act of the 1960s and the best-charting female group in U.S. history. They were also one of the all-time best-selling girl groups in the world. The group released a record-setting twelve number-one hit singles on the Billboard Hot 100,[a] ten of which Wilson sang backing vocals for.
Mary died on Monday at her home in Las Vegas at the age of 76, her publicist said in a statement. No notable causes of death were present.
Thoughts and Prayers
“The Supremes were always known as the ‘sweethearts of Motown,'” Berry Gordy, founder of the Motown record label, said in a statement. “Mary, along with Diana Ross and Florence Ballard, came to Motown in the early 1960s. After an unprecedented string of No. 1 hit, television, and nightclub bookings, they opened doors for themselves, the other Motown acts, and many, many others… She was a trailblazer, a diva, and will be deeply missed.”
Wilson remained with the group following the departures of other original members, Florence Ballard in 1967 and Diana Ross in 1970.
The group disbanded following Wilson’s departure in 1977. Wilson later became a New York Times best-selling author in 1986 with the release of her first autobiography, Dreamgirl: My Life as a Supreme. The book set records for sales in its genre, and later for the autobiography Supreme Faith: Someday We’ll Be Together.
Continuing a successful career as a concert performer in Las Vegas, Wilson also worked in activism.
She was actively fighting to pass Truth in Music Advertising bills and donating to various charities. Wilson was inducted along with Ross and Ballard (as members of the Supremes) into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988.
Wilson got involved in a protracted legal battle with Motown over management of the Supremes. After an out-of-court settlement, Wilson signed with Motown for solo work, releasing a disco-heavy self-titled album in 1979. A single from the album, “Red Hot”, had a modest showing of No. 90 on the pop charts.
Midway through the production of a second solo album in 1980, Motown dropped her from its roster. Throughout the mid-1980s, Wilson focused on performances in musical theater productions, including Beehive, Dancing in the Streets, and Supreme Soul.
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