Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images

Supremes co-founder Mary Wilson dead at 76

music news 10/02/2021

Mary Wilson, the only member of the Supremes to appear in every lineup of the group, has passed away at the age of 76.

Wilson died unexpectedly and suddenly on Monday evening, according to a statement from her longtime friend and publicist, Jay Schwartz.

Wilson was part of the four-piece vocal group that formed as the Primettes in 1959. Wilson, Diana Ross and Florence Ballard went to the same school in Detroit, and started alongside Betty McGlown in a group that was designed to complement the all-male group the Primes. They changed from Primettes to the Supremes when they signed to Motown.

She appeared on all 12 of their No.1 hits between 1964 and 1969, including iconic tracks like, 'Where Did Our Love Go', 'Baby Love', 'Come See About Me' and 'Stop! In the Name of Love'.

The Supremes became Motown's most successful group in the '60s and remain the highest-charting female vocal group in American history.

Motown Records boss Berry Gordy said in a statement that he was "extremely shocked and saddened" over her death. "The Supremes were always known as the 'sweethearts of Motown,'" he said. "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."

She is survived by her daughter Turkessa and grandchildren (Mia, Marcanthony, Marina); her son, Pedro Antonio Jr and grandchildren (Isaiah, Ilah, Alexander, Alexandria); her sister Kathryn; her brother, Roosevelt; her adopted son/cousin Willie and grandchildren (Erica (great granddaughter, Lori), Vanessa, Angela).

Services will be private due to COVID restrictions, a representative says, though a celebration of Wilson’s life and career will take place later this year.

The family asks in lieu of flowers, that friends and fans support UNCF.org and the Humpty Dumpty Institute.