Diana Ross reacts to the sudden death of her Supremes bandmate Mary Wilson at 76: ‘I have so many wonderful memories of our time together’
The Supremes singer Mary Wilson died suddenly at the age of 76, it was revealed on Monday.
And the next morning her band mate Diana Ross, who is also 76, released a statement on Twitter.
‘I just woke up to this news, my condolences to you Mary’s family, I am reminded that each day is a gift, I have so many wonderful memories of our time together,’ the Detroit native who is best known for her singles I’m Coming Out and Love Hangover wrote.
The way they were: The Supremes singer Mary Wilson (center) died suddenly at the age of 76, it was revealed on Monday. And the next morning her 76-year-old band mate Diana Ross (far right) released a statement on Twitter; also seen is Florence Ballard, far left
Sad loss: ‘I just woke up to this news, my condolences to you Mary’s family, I am reminded that each day is a gift, I have so many wonderful memories of our time together,’ the Detroit native who is best known for her singles I’m Coming Out and Love Hangover wrote
‘The Supremes will live on in our hearts,’ the crooner added.
Singer Beverley Knight tweeted: ‘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.’
Mary passed away at her home in Las Vegas on February 8, her publicist has confirmed, with a cause of death yet to be announced.
Along with bandmates Diana and Florence Ballard, Wilson was at the forefront of the Motown sound after signing with the label in 1961 when she was 15 years old, originally as a member of The Primettes before the group changed their name.
Long-term publicist Jay Schwartz confirmed Wilson’s funeral service will be held privately in accordance with current health and safety guidelines, but a public memorial will be scheduled for later in the year.
Motown founder Berry Gordy paid tribute to one of the ‘sweethearts of Motown’, who he described as ‘a trailblazer and a diva’.
Quite the trio: The Supremes in concert, circa 1965. From left to right, Diana, Mary and Florence
Tragic: Motown is mourning one of its greatest sweethearts after The Supremes singer Mary Wilson died suddenly at the age of 76 (pictured in November 2019)
He said: ‘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 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 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.’
Trailblazers: Wilson was at the forefront of the Motown sound after signing with the label in 1961, originally as a member of The Primettes before the group changed their name to The Supremes ( pictured L-R: Band-mates Diana Ross, Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard)
BERRY GORDY’S STATEMENT IN FULL
‘The Supremes were always known as the “sweethearts of Motown.” Mary, along with Diana Ross and Florence Ballard, came to
‘Motown in the early 1960’s. 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 married businessman and former Supremes manager Pedro Ferrer in Las Vegas on May 11th 1977.
The couple had three children – Turkessa, Pedro Antonio Jr. and Rafael – before divorcing in 1981.
However the singer would suffer tragedy in 1994 when her Jeep flipped on the road between Las Vegas and Los Angeles, injuring herself and killing 14-year old Rafael.
Speaking to The Sun about the death of her youngest child in 2019, she said: ‘I was driving the car, but you know we had gotten a lot of sleep that night. I had not been drinking or anything like that.
‘It was really devastating. I think the only thing that got me through was probably just being who I am. I am very resilient.’
She added: ‘I have his picture all over my house and sometimes I will look at it and I’ll just burst into tears.
‘And sometimes I’ll just smile, you know, you’ve just got to, something in you, you’ve got to have that.’
Prior to her marriage Wilson notably had an affair with Welsh singer Tom Jones, as documented in biography Tom Jones: The Life.
Jones’ publicist Chris Hutchins’ revealed the affair began in 1968 during the singer’s tour of the US, with Wilson eventually flying to meet him in the UK after he performed at Bournemouth’s Winter Gardens.
Marriage: Wilson (second right) married former Supremes manager Pedro Ferrer (second left) in Las Vegas on May 11th 1977 (pictured with Ferrer and Wilson’s mothers in 1974)
Happy family: Wilson with children Turkessa (far left), Pedro Jr and Rafael in 1987. Rafael died aged 14 in 1994 during a car accident that hospitalised his mother
Fling: Wilson notably had an affair with married Welsh singer Tom Jones at the height of her fame in the late ’60s, as documented in biography Tom Jones: The Life
Born in rural Greenville, Mississippi in 1944, Wilson became an international star with The Supremes as the band racked up a string of hits throughout the 1960s and ’70s.
The singer featured on all of their singles chart-topping singles from that period, among them Baby Love, Stop! In The Name Of Love and You Keep Me Hanging’ On.
However there were dramatic changes to the line-up, with Ballard leaving in 1967 and Ross – around whom Gordy renamed the band – embarking on what would be a hugely successful solo career in 1970.
The group finally disbanded following a farewell show in London in 1977, with Wilson going on to release two studio albums; her last, Walk The Line, was released by CEO in 1992.
Legendary: Wilson has been described as a ‘trailblazer’ by Motown founder Berry Gordy
Ballroom: Away from music the singer appeared the 28th season of US show Dancing With The Stars in 2019, where she was paired with ballroom professional Brandon Armstrong
HOW MARY WILSON’S COOKING RUMBLED HER AFFAIR WITH MARRIED TOM JONES
‘They got Mary out and then went around and removed every trace of her.
‘(Tom’s wife) Linda came in and said, “Where is that woman?” and Tom said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about”.
‘And she said, “Mary Wilson, she’s been here”. And he said, “No, she hasn’t”. But Linda carried on checking the wardrobes, everything.
‘Finally she opened the oven, the one place the boys had forgotten.
‘Now Mary Wilson was a great cook and had prepared a meal the previous evening, which they hadn’t yet eaten. Linda says, “Oh yeah! And who cooked this?”
‘And Tom said, quick as a flash, “(personal assistant) Chris Ellis”. But Chris couldn’t do beans on toast.
‘So Tom said, “He’s been taking cooking lessons.”‘
From Tom Jones: A Life
The singer went on to publish three books about her time with The Supremes, among them 1986 memoir Dreamgirl: My Life As A Supreme, a warts-and-all account of the fraught dynamic within the band.
Speaking to Jet magazine shortly after its release, she said: ‘I’m sure people will have their own opinions about that, but I really don’t care.
‘My main thing is that when I was in the group I maintained my position and I didn’t step into Diane’s position. I’m no longer in the group now.
‘I have my own position to uphold and it’s not in the background.’
Only two days before her death the singer had shared a YouTube post in which she promised to release more material after working with Universal Music.
Those releases were expected to include the previously shelved album Red Hot, recorded by the singer in the late 1970s.
‘So much has happened to me in the month of February,’ she told subscribers. ‘Mainly because I’m working with Universal Music and they are going to release new recordings – Mary Wilson recordings.’
She added: ‘Hopefully some of that will be out on my birthday, March 6.’
Reflecting on the success of Motown in 2010, she told The Guardian: ‘It really was like walking into a Disneyland. All these creative people.
‘People say: “Motown, it was this big building”, but I always say no, Motown was always a collaboration between the people, with Berry (Gordy) at the head of course.’
On alleged tensions between herself, Ross and Ballard – who passed away following a long battle with alcoholism in 1976 – she added: ‘I think we all think of ourselves as distant cousins. There are some things, but there’s no hate – I still would want to be at Motown…
‘She grew up as Diane, and Florence grew up as Flo. We’re friends but we don’t call each other constantly. We’ve grown apart, but it’s not because we don’t like each other.
‘My love for Flo and Diane is pretty much almost the same as for my sisters – we had so much together, we grew up together.’
Away from music the singer appeared the 28th season of US show Dancing With The Stars in 2019, where she was paired with ballroom professional Brandon Armstrong.
Wilson is survived by children Turkessa, Pedro Antonio Jr and her grandchildren – Mia, Marcanthony, Marina, Isaiah, Ilah, Alexander and Alexandria.
All over: The group finally disbanded following a farewell tour in 1977
——————————————————————————————————————-Defining the Motown sound: As Mary Wilson dies aged 76… a look back at the decades spanning story of The Supremes
The sudden death of Mary Wilson on Monday leaves Diana Ross as the last surviving original member of The Supremes, but for many their music will live on for years to come.
Formed as The Primettes by Wilson, Ross, Betty McGlown and Florence Ballard – four friends from the unforgiving Brewster-Douglass Housing Projects in Detroit – they would go on to become the most successful all-female group in history after signing for Motown in 1961.
McGlown would be replaced by Barbara Martin – the first of many line-up changes and another early departure after leaving the band in 1962 – before Motown founder Berry Gordy quickly established Ross as their focal point.
Backed by the songwriting and production talents of Lamont Dozier and brothers Eddie and Brian Holland, the group scored 12 US Billboard Hot 100 number one singles, with their success only rivalled by era-defining British band The Beatles.
Popular: The Supremes onstage in 1966 (L-R: Mary Wilson, Diana Ross and Florence Ballard)
But despite their success the band dynamic became strained after Gordy – by now romantically attached to Ross – renamed the band Diana Ross and The Supremes in 1967, at the height of their commercial success.
Dissatisfied with the group’s direction and struggling with depression and alcoholism, Ballard was replaced by Cindy Birdsong that same year. Ballard would die in her native Detroit aged 32 in 1976.
Further changes would come in 1968, with the Holland-Dozier-Holland partnership leaving Motown over a royalties dispute – taking with them the sound that helped make The Supremes a household name.
Perhaps more significantly, Ross would confirm her departure from the band in 1969, with the singer making her final appearance with The Supremes at The Frontier Hotel in Las Vegas on January 14, 1970.
Trio: (L-R) Cindy Birdsong, Mary Wilson and Scherrie Payne of The Supremes onstage in the 1970s
With Jean Terrell installed as her replacement and the band quickly rebranded as The Supremes and eventually The ’70s Supremes they enjoyed a further three years of success before commercial sales began to dip.
Disappointed by the poor reception afforded single Bad Weather – the track laboured to number 87 on the Billboard Hot 100 – Terrell left the band in 1973, to be replaced by Scherrie Payne.
The band’s last incarnation – Wilson, Payne and Susaye Greene – would release their final single, I’m Gonna Let My Heart Do the Walking, in 1976 before disbanding the following year.
Among their achievements The Supremes were nominated twice for a Grammy Award, but never won.
Three of their songs have been added to the Grammy Hall of Fame.
All the hits: The band scored 12 number one hits on the US Billboard Hot 100
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