Mary Wilson, the acclaimed singer and co-founder of the Supremes, has died at the age of 76.
Wilson’s passing yesterday (February 8) at her home in Henderson, Nevada was confirmed by her longtime publicist Jay Schwartz, who said that the singer died suddenly (via Variety). A cause of death has not been confirmed.
Wilson was among the original members of the Supremes alongside Diana Ross, Florence Ballard and Barbara Martin when they assumed the Supremes name in 1961 after forming in Detroit as The Primettes in 1959.
After signing for Motown Records on January 21, 1961 the Supremes went on to become one of the biggest-selling groups of all time, releasing such hit songs as ‘You Can’t Hurry Love’, ‘Baby Love’ and ‘Come See About Me’. Wilson remained with the group, who became a trio following Martin’s departure in 1962, until their split in 1977.
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
In a statement, Motown Records founder Berry Gordy Jr. said that he was “extremely shocked and saddened” to hear of Wilson’s death.
“The Supremes were always known as the ‘sweethearts of Motown’,” he continued in tribute. “Mary, along with Diana Ross and Florence Ballard, came to Motown in the early 1960s. After an unprecedented string of No. 1 hits, television and nightclub bookings, they opened doors for themselves, the other Motown acts, and many, many others.
“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. Mary Wilson was extremely special to me. She was a trailblazer, a diva and will be deeply missed.”
Wilson uploaded a YouTube video on Saturday (February 6) in which she spoke about releasing new solo material, including the unreleased album ‘Red Hot’ which she recorded with producer Gus Dudgeon in the 1970s.
The singer released two solo albums during her career, her self-titled 1979 debut and 1992’s ‘Walk The Line’. Her final single, ‘Time to Move On’, was released in 2015. Her 1986 autobiography, Dreamgirl: My Life As a Supreme, became a New York Times best-seller.
Tributes are being paid to Wilson on social media, and you can see a selection of the messages below.
Mary Wilson along with Florence Ballard and Diana Ross changed the game permanently. Hit after hit after hit, on regular rotation to this day. A Supreme Titan may have left us but that legacy will never be surpassed. Rest in power #MaryWilson ❤️ https://t.co/q54gUFLmcl pic.twitter.com/li8ndoy7yx
— Beverley Knight💙 (@Beverleyknight) 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
Music legend Mary Wilson of the groundbreaking Motown group The Supremes has passed at age 76. A vivacious, classy, kind & funny woman, Mary became a solo artist after The Supremes. The group was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1988. 🙏🏽#MaryWilson #TheSupremes pic.twitter.com/cO4Ru1cSoS
— Jawn Murray (@JawnMurray) February 9, 2021
RIP Mary Wilson 😥
Supreme Queen who helped change the world alongside Florence & Diana
Been listening to a lot of Motown during lockdown and watched the brilliant ‘Soul America’ doc on iPlayer. Been obsessed with watching their classic performances on YouTube ever since 🙌🏽 https://t.co/l4ilzPkPij
— Adele Roberts (@AdeleRoberts) February 9, 2021
— ledisi (@ledisi) February 9, 2021
The saddest news to wake up to today. We’ll be honouring the amazing legacy of #MaryWilson on our @BBC6Music #PeoplesPlaylist this week. If there’s a track you want to hear in the mix, let me know here. https://t.co/cKazCh54PZ
— Lauren Laverne (@laurenlaverne) February 9, 2021