Mary Wilson, a founding member of The Supremes, dies at 76

LAS VEGAS -- Mary Wilson, the longest-reigning original Supreme, has died at 76.

Wilson died Monday night at her home in Las Vegas and the cause was not immediately clear, said publicist Jay Schwartz.

Wilson, Diana Ross and Florence Ballard made up the first successful configuration of The Supremes. Ballard was replaced by Cindy Birdsong in 1967, and Wilson stayed with the group until it was officially disbanded by Motown in 1977.

The group's first No. 1, million-selling song, "Where Did Our Love Go," was released June 17, 1964. Touring at the time, Wilson said there was a moment when she realized they had a hit song.

"I remember that instead of going home on the bus, we flew," she told The Associated Press in 2014. "That was our first plane ride. We flew home. We had really hit big."
EMBED More News Videos

Sandy Kenyon pays tribute to Mary Wilson's life.


It would be the first of five consecutive No. 1s, with "Baby Love," "Come See About Me," Stop! In the Name of Love" and "Back in My Arms Again" following in quick succession. The Supremes also recorded the hit songs "You Can't Hurry Love," "Up the Ladder to the Roof," and "Love Child."

The group also recorded the hit songs "You Can't Hurry Love," "Up the Ladder to the Roof," and "Stop! In the Name of Love."

"I just woke up to this news," Ross tweeted on Tuesday, offering her condolences to Wilson's family. "I am reminded that each day is a gift," she added, writing "I have so many wonderful memories of our time together."

"I was extremely shocked and saddened to hear of the passing of a major member of the Motown family, Mary Wilson of the Supremes," said Motown founder Berry Gordy in a statement. "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," Gordy said. "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."

As a girl, Wilson lived in a Detroit housing project, and became a star at a young age when she became a member of The Supremes as a teenager.

The group became one of Motown's most successful acts of the 1960s and scored a dozen No.1 singles. They recently celebrated their 60th anniversary on Jan. 21 - the day they were signed by Motown Records.

Wilson also wrote a New York Times best-seller in 1986 with her memoir, "Dreamgirl: My Life as a Supreme." She did a coffee table book in 2019 called "Supreme Glamour," full of personal stories and hundreds of fashion photos.
At 75, she appeared on "Dancing With The Stars."

Wilson was working on new projects for 2021, including an album she recently teased on her YouTube channel.

She is survived by her daughter, son, several grandchildren, a sister and brother.
Copyright © 2021 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.