Mary Wilson...our world is empty without you.
When Diana Ross, Mary Wilson, and Florence Ballard (along with their friend Barbara Martin) first came to Motown, they were known as The Primettes. Before their first single's release, they had been rechristened The Supremes. While there was initial skepticism of the name, any such doubts clearly dissipated when "Where Did Our Love Go" reached the top of the Billboard Hot 100 on August 22, 1964. It was the first of a staggering twelve No. 1s The Supremes would notch before the end of the 1960s. As the most successful American group of the decade - not to mention America's most successful vocal group of all time - "The Supremes" was more than apt. Only one member of the group was there at the very beginning and there at the very end. Mary Wilson was a true American success story. Talented, tenacious, and beautiful, she exemplified African-American greatness. She and her fellow Supremes shattered every glass ceiling imaginable, making it possible for black artists to achieve universal success and paving the way for the superstar artists of today. Motown was The Sound of Young America, and Mary Wilson was one of its most vibrant and visible messengers.
In addition to being one of the familiar voices anchoring that instantly recognizable Supremes sound, Mary brought passion and vivacity to every endeavor: whether performing onstage to delighted audiences across the country and always taking the time to meet her fans, writing best-selling books (including 2019's Supreme Glamour), recording solo music, acting in musicals, mentoring young artists, engaging in philanthropy, championing artists' rights, or gamely Dancing with the Stars on the ABC television show. A Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Vocal Group Hall of Fame inductee, Mary used her platform to better the lives of others while bringing joy with her timeless music.
On a personal note: it's been one of the great honors and privileges of my life to have known Mary Wilson. When she had no obligation to do so, she kindly supported our Real Gone Music/Second Disc Records reissues of The Supremes' Merry Christmas and Diana Ross and The Supremes' "Sing and Perform 'Funny Girl'," even penning a new introduction for the latter release. Mary was down-to-earth, a wonderful storyteller, and a great lady with a tremendous spirit and a big heart. To watch her was to take in a lesson about stage presence - except she had the kind you couldn't simply learn. Call it charisma, call it magnetism...Mary Wilson had it. You couldn't take your eyes off her. To be around her was to feel connected to history - not just history she witnessed, but history she created. Yet she remained very much in the moment, looking forward to the next project and to sharing her enthusiasm with her cherished family and friends. She endured numerous obstacles and hardships throughout her life, but survived them with grace and strength.
As long as there's music, there will be "Stop! In the Name of Love" and "I Hear a Symphony" and "You Can't Hurry Love." Not to mention "I Keep It Hid" and "A Heart Like Mine" and "You Are the Heart of Me," just some of the songs on which Mary stepped into the spotlight to sing lead vocals. Her voice was part of the soundtrack of our lives - so inviting, so exciting. Happily, it will go on and on and on. C'mon, sing along - just a baby, baby or two. We love you, Mary.
Bruce Padgett says
So sad to hear the woeful news. Mary’s vocals were an indispensable factor to the classic Supremes sound, and her demise symbolically brings down the curtain to their history. Such a vocal blend will never be heard again.
RIP dear Mary.
Wayne Randall says
Sorry to hear about the passing of Mary. I got her autographed book at Barnes and Noble for Christmas.
Jeff Bailey says
Underappreciated diva 😥
Robert Lett says
Ugh 2021 is not starting out any better than last year. Mary was the last live show I saw before Covid shut everything down. RIP.
I am heartbroken at this sad news. May that dear lady's beautiful soul rest in peace.
Henry Wilson says
I'm brokenhearted about the lost of one of the greatest singer from the Supremes love all of her music
Bill Anthony says
No mention of the great Supremes hits after Diana left - Up The Ladder To The Roof, Stoned Love, Nathan Jones, and the sublime Floy Joy.....
Andemoine Winrow says
She was one of a kind. ''MY WORLD IS EMPTY WITHOUT YOU'' will always be my favorite. My condolences to her family. This month will be 45 years since the passing of FLORENCE BALLARD.
Ronald Carter says
Ms. Wilson spoke, just a couple of days prior to her death, of finally getting her one Motown LP and some bonus material released. I hope and pray that the powers that be, whoever they are, will honor her wishes and make this material available AT LONG LAST. Perhaps also the Holland Brothers will finally release her "Clarity" / "Life's Been Good To Me" album from a decade back. Fans have been begging for these albums and this wealth of unreleased Mary Wilson material for decades. Show her some respect, please, and finally get it out to her fans.
I think Ms Wilson will get her long over due Respect from the World. We lost a real Soul survivor Who never stopped singing RIP
Yet another great artist has left us. Her talent though will be with us forever in her music.
Shirley Barnes says
Like so many young girls growing up watching the Supremes in their prime, I wanted to be like them. You know the drill: Hiding out in the back room with a mirror and using a comb as your mike; then doing your moves , or rather impersonating theirs.’ Each of them was uniquely gifted. I never could decide who was the prettiest because to me, they were beautiful singing and dancing angels. I admire Mary for continuing with her gift while living a life filled with grace and dignity. Praying for her family and love ones.
George Solomon says
Beautifully written Joe. Thanks to you and Gordon for helping us keep the legacy alive.
Alexander Kelley says
Ms mary, ms Florence, and ms diana, were special to me. I sent a tape to Motown, to barry gordy 1963. Mr gordy, wrote me back, told me to finish school, and contact him. Long story, i didn't get to go, i was the little guy, from Obelin, Cameron village, Raleigh,nc. I would practice every night, in the tool shed, iam a high tenor singer. I met the Supreme's @ the coloinal store, cameron village. They were so beautiful, and friendly. They were my idols. They were great Singers. Im 68 years old, and Im one of the Kelley Triplets. Thank you, Motown, The Supreme's.
Anna Hernandez says
Since 1968 the Supremes have meant so much to me, when Jean joined I really fell in love Mary became an inspiration to never let people put me down. I n 1974 I wrote to her she answered I was over the cherry moon i stayed with her throughout meeting her in 1986 I recited all 10 Supremes & beyond she called me an A. Fan,whenever I saw her I always reminded her it’s me the A. Fan I loved her so she raised us all supremely.
Denise cobb says
We will miss this.Queen,i have read all of her books sorry to see her go,but such a wonderful life,see you on the other side ms mary!
Denisr Jones says
Mary Wilson was so beautiful, her heart was made of gold, she was a true Supreme.
Harry Cohen says
I had the opportunity to meet Mary at Book Expo in 2019 when she was starting to publicize Supreme Glamour. I told her that Nathan Jones was my favorite 70s Supremes song and that my middle name was Nathan. She then sang "Nathan Jones you been gone too long" and I joined in. She signed her autograph "TO Harry, my own Nathan Jones". She was beautiful, gracious and talented. And now, Mary Wilson, you been gone too long.
I remember watching the Supremes on Ed Sullivan in the early 60's, it was magical. Ms Mary & Ms Florence were the real stars of the group. RIP Ms Mary, you will be missed & blessings to your family.
Jeff James says
Mary is Detroit, we will miss her dearly. From poverty of the projects of Brewster, to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, shows how great she and the Supremes truly were!! Yes you can be who you want to be! RIP Baby Love !
I remember seeing Mary, Flo and Diana while living in the Brewster Douglas projects in Detroit, Michigan. I lived on Hastings Street. Played ball with T-Boy Ross. Mary was the girl of my dreams.
Ballard & Wilson are dead; Ross is not. Accolades are for the living; revisionisms is for the dead. You have to be alive to enjoy them.
Alex Radionow says
What a wonderful lady.
Talked to her through e-mails in the early 2000's
Met her twice and saw her perform 3 times. Maybe 4.
Plus so many records and videos left by this SUPREME talent.
SO miss her already.
Zane Spensor says
AT-THE-END-OF-THE-DAY, REGARDLESS OF WHAT MARY SAID, DID AND RELIVED...OVER & OVER AGAIN, IT WAS, ALWAYS, ABOUT THE SUPREMES!
SHE WAS THE "BABY JAYNE" OF THE SUPREMES. SHE DID NOT MATTER AS A VOCALIST, WHETHER WITH ROSS AND BALLARD OR WITH ROSS AND BIRDSONG OR WITH TERRELL AND BIRDSONG.
WITHOUT DIANA ROSS...NO ONE WOULD HAVE EVER KNOWN THAT EITHER WILSON OR BALLARD EXISTED. AND WHETHER WE LIKE IT OR NOT, THE SUPREMES ARE HISTORICALLY REMEMBERED AS DIAN, MARY AND FLO AND NO ONE ELSE.
WILSON IS GONE AND SO IS BALLARD. WAIT UNTIL ROSS GOES! WHO IS LEFT OF HER AND THEIR GENERATION WILL NOTE IT WORTHWHILE.