Mary Wilson, an original member of the Supremes, dies at 76

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Mary Wilson, an original member of the Supremes, dies at 76
This November 11, 2019 picture shows singer Mary Wilson, from The Supremes, arrive for the Ryan Gordy Foundation 60 Years of Motown Celebration at the Waldorf Astoria in Beverly Hills. The death of singer Mary Wilson, co-founder of the trio Supremes, has just been announced by her publicist Jay Schwartz. She died Monday night, February 8, at her home in Las Vegas. She was 76 years old. Mark RALSTON / AFP.

by Derrick Bryson Taylor

NEW YORK (NYT NEWS SERVICE).- Mary Wilson, a founding member of the Supremes, the trailblazing vocal group that had a dozen No. 1 singles on the pop charts in the 1960s and was a key to the success of Motown Records, died Monday at her home in Henderson, Nevada. She was 76.

The death was confirmed by her publicist, Jay Schwartz. No cause was given.

The Supremes' other original members were Diana Ross and Florence Ballard.

Berry Gordy, the founder of Motown, said in a statement that the Supremes had opened doors for other Motown acts.

“I was always proud of Mary,” he said. “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 the only original member still with the Supremes when the group broke up in 1977.

Wilson was born March 6, 1944, in Greenville, Mississippi, to Sam and Johnnie Mae Wilson. She grew up in Detroit.

The Supremes achieved success after they began working with the songwriting and producing team of Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Eddie Holland — and after Gordy made Ross the lead singer. (Before then, Wilson and Ballard had shared most of the lead vocals.)

Five consecutive No. 1 singles, all with Ross as the lead singer, followed in rapid succession in 1964 and 1965: “Where Did Our Love Go,” “Baby Love,” “Come See About Me,” “Stop! In the Name of Love” and “Back in My Arms Again.”

By 1967, Ballard was replaced by Cindy Birdsong, and the group was renamed Diana Ross and the Supremes. Ross left the group for a solo career in 1970 and was replaced as lead singer by Jean Terrell, leaving Wilson as the last remaining original member.

The Supremes were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1988.

The Supremes broke up in 1977. Wilson released the album “Mary Wilson” in 1979 and had begun working on a second album when she was dropped by Motown in 1980. She did not release another album until “Walk the Line” in 1992, but she maintained a busy career as a singer.

Ross said on Twitter on Tuesday that she had “wonderful” memories of her time with Wilson and that “the Supremes will live on in our hearts.”

Wilson is survived her daughter, Turkessa; her sons, Pedro Antonio Jr. and William; her sister, Kathryn; her brother, Roosevelt; 10 grandchildren; and a great-granddaughter. Her marriage to Pedro Ferrer ended in divorce.

In 2019 Wilson competed on “Dancing With the Stars.”

© 2021 The New York Times Company

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