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Mary Wilson - One Of The Founding Members Of The Supremes - Has Joined The Ancestors

Mary Wilson - One Of The Founding Members Of The Supremes - Has Joined The Ancestors

She was a supreme being!

Mary Wilson, one of the Supremes founding members, has passed away at 76. Her longtime friend and publicist, Jay Schwartz, said she "passed away suddenly" on Monday evening.

"Wilson was a "trendsetter who broke down social, racial, and gender barriers. Their influence not only carries on in contemporary R&B, soul and pop, they also helped pave the way for mainstream success by Black artists across all genres," Schwartz said in a statement. "Wilson used her fame and flair to promote a diversity of humanitarian efforts including ending hunger, raising HIV/AIDS awareness and encouraging world peace."

The iconic girl group was started in Detroit under the name, The Primettes in 1959 when Wilson, Diana Ross, and Florence Ballard were just teens. They caught the ear of Motown Founder Barry Gordy, who signed them as the first girl group of Motown. Together they made history. The Supremes were Motown's most successful group of the 60s with 12 No. 1 singles, including five back to back hits from 1964-1965. Wilson appeared on all 12 hits, including "Where Did Our Love Go," "Baby Love," "Come See About Me," and "Stop! In the Name of Love". Wilson, Ross, and Ballard were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988.

Gordy expressed his shock at her passing 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," Gordy said. "The Supremes were always known as the 'sweethearts of Motown.' Mary, along with Diana Ross and Florence Ballard, came to Motown in the early 1960s. After an unprecedented string of Number One 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 was born in Greenville, Mississippi, on March 6, 1944, then moved with her family to St. Louis and finally settled in Chicago when she was a young girl. She eventually moved to Detroit, raised by her aunt and uncle before her mother, Johnnie Mae, came to the city and moved the family to the Brewer-Douglass Projects in Detroit. It was there she met Ballard and Betty Travis, and with Diana Ross, formed the Primettes. Ross' friendship with Smokey Robinson got them an audition with Gordy, singing the Drifters' 'There Goes My Baby". Before the release of their 1961 single, "I Want A Guy," they changed their name to the Supremes, and by 1964 they'd began topping the charts.

In 2018, Billboard celebrated the 60th anniversary of Motown, listing the Supremes at number 16 of "The Hot 100's Top Artists of All Time". Wilson's career was more than just singing. According to Schwartz, she was a bestselling author, motivational speaker, businesswoman, and US Cultural Ambassador. She was influential in the passing of the Music Modernization Act (MMA) in 2018, which aimed to modernize copyright-related issues for new music and audio recordings in the face of new technology like digital streaming, which did not protect music recorded before February 15, 1972, the statement said.

The Hall of Famer was working on new projects for 2021, including an album she recently teased on her YouTube channel. The singer was at her home in Henderson, Nevada. She is survived by her daughter, son, several grandchildren, a sister, and brother.

Rest in power, Mary! 

Photo Credit: The Daily Mail/Pitchfork