Mary Wilson, co-founder of The Supremes, is dead at 76

Just two days before her death, Wilson posted a video on YouTube celebrating the anniversary of The Supremes' founding.

Loading the player...

Mary Wilson, the co-founding member of iconic Motown trio The Supremes, passed away Monday at her home in the suburbs of Las Vegas.

Wilson’s passing was confirmed by her longtime publicist, Jay Schwartz, who said, “We are devastated.” 

Mary Wilson performs at the Catalina Bar and Grill in September 2010 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Noel Vasquez/Getty Images)

Just two days before her death, Wilson, who was 76, posted a video to her YouTube channel celebrating Black History Month and the 60th anniversary of the founding of The Supremes. She noted in it that Feb. 8 would be the 46th anniversary of “Stop! In the Name of Love.” It also turned out to be the date of her passing.

In the video, Wilson looked resplendent. 

Her cause of death has not been announced. According to Variety, her official funeral services will be private due to COVID restrictions, but a more public memorial will be planned for later this year. 

Wilson formed the legendary music group with Florence Ballard, her friend and neighbor in the Brewster projects, eventual leader Diana Ross and a fourth girl, Betty McGlown, when they were just teenagers in Detroit. They joined Motown Records in the early 1960s and, with various iterations before and after Ross’ departure in 1970, remained with the company until the girl-group was dissolved in 1977. 

Read More: California woman who contracted COVID-19 charged $1.3M in medical expenses

“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 Berry Gordy, the name synonymous with Motown Records, in a statement Monday night. 

“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,” Gordy noted. “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.”

Read More: Los Angeles doctor fights to ensure vaccine distribution in Black community

Considered the greatest girl group of all time, The Supremes scored 12 number-one hits from 1964 to 1969, and Wilson appeared on every song. While Ross went on to become the most visible and famous member of the group, Wilson was largely seen as its steady, guiding force. 

In 2019, Wilson appeared on the 28th season of “Dancing with the Stars.” She is also the author of four books, including the bestselling memoir, Dreamgirl: My Life as a Supreme, in 1986. 

She is survived by her sister, her brother, three children, 10 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Have you subscribed to theGrio’s “Dear Culture” podcast? Download our newest episodes now!
TheGrio is now on Apple TV, Amazon Fire and Roku. Download today!

Loading the player...