Vocalist Mary Wilson, who was a co-founder of the legendary Motown soul outfit The Supremes alongside Florence Ballard, Betty McGlown and the iconic Diana Ross, has passed away at the age of 76. Her passing was announced by Motown Records and Ross on Twitter. According to a statement from her publicist, Wilson died suddenly in her Las Vegas home yesterday, February 8.
To a female trailblazer and forever Sweetheart of Motown, who brought many timeless records for generations to come – Thank You.
— Motown Records (@motown) February 9, 2021
Born in Greenville, Mississippi in 1944, Wilson spent some of her youth in St. Louis and Chicago, before her family eventually relocated to Detroit before she became a teenager. Wilson eventually met Ballard at a Detroit elementary school and befriended her while singing for a talent show. In 1959, a teenaged Wilson auditioned for Milton Jenkins’, who was forming a sister outfit for the Primes called The Primettes, which eventually became The Supremes.
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
Barbara Martin would replace McGlown in 1960 and the following year the group was signed to Motown Records. During the peak of their success, The Supremes rivaled prominent rock acts such as The Beatles on the charts, spearheading classic singles such as “You Can’t Hurry Love,” “Stop! In The Name Of Love,” “Where Did Our Love Go?” and “You Keep Me Hangin’ On.” Wilson would remain with the group following the departure of Ballard in 1976 and Ross in 1970, with the group ultimately dissolving upon Wilson’s exit in 1977.
“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,” Motown founder Berry Gordy explained. “Mary Wilson was extremely special to me. She was a trailblazer, a diva, and will be deeply missed.”
Sam Moore, a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame member who was a part of the iconic soul duo Sam & Dave also released a statement, urging her fans to push Congressional representatives and Senators to pass a terrestrial radio bill. This bill would allow artists to get paid when their music is played on AM/FM radio.
“Mary will be missed on many levels. Mary was always someone I could count on to help fight to get the terrestrial radio bill passed through Congress so that when all of our music – every American recording artists music played on AM and FM radio – we could get paid and we could finally collect the thousands and thousands of dollars from around the world, which would be life-changing money for so many of us – our friends – our peers – all genres. I call every fan of Mary’s to write their senators and their congressmen and say ‘get the artist paid when their music is played on AM/FM radio’. In her memory pass a bill – stop cheating them while you’re making billions,” Moore stated in a press release.