Supremes co-founder and singer Mary Wilson dies aged 76

Mary Wilson
Mary Wilson co-founded The Supremes as a teenager

Mary Wilson, who co-founded The Supremes and remained a member of the group until they split up, has died at the age of 76.

The singer’s death was announced by her publicist Jay Schwartz but the cause of death has not yet been confirmed, according to CBS. The Supremes were known for hits such as Baby Love and You Can’t Hurry Love. The group was founded in Detroit as The Primettes in 1959, when Wilson was 15 years old. Wilson was an original member of the group alongside Diana Ross, Florence Ballard and Barbara Martin. Martin left the group before they became successful, and The Supremes continued as a trio.

The Supremes - left to right: Florence Ballard, Diana Ross and Mary Wilson, photographed backstage for 'Top of the Pops' (TOTP) in October 1965
L-R: Florence Ballard, Diana Ross and Mary Wilson of The Supremes

The group disbanded following Wilson’s 1977 departure. The founder of Motown Records, Berry Gordy, said in a statement: “I was extremely shocked and saddened to hear of the passing of a major member of the Motown family, Mary Wilson of the Supremes.

“The Supremes 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.”

Mary Wilson
Two days before her death, Wilson announced she was working on new solo material

A funeral for Wilson will be held privately due to Covid-19 restrictions, her family said. Wilson became a New York Times bestselling author in 1986 with the release of her autobiography, Dreamgirl: My Life As a Supreme. The Supremes were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988. In 2019, Wilson took part in Dancing With The Stars, the US version of Strictly Come Dancing. Just two days before her death, Wilson uploaded a video on YouTube announcing that she was working on releasing new solo material.

Paul Stanley of KISS tweeted: “I was just on a Zoom call with her Wednesday for about an hour and never could have imagined this. So full of life and great stories. Absolutely shocked. Rest In Supreme Peace Mary.” Broadcaster Tony Blackburn said: “So sorry to hear the wonderful Mary Wilson has passed away. She was a very great singer and a very nice person. R.I.P.”

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