Wilson’s friend and publicist, Jay Schwartz, said she died at her home in Las Vegas. A cause of death was not immediately revealed.
“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 in a statement to Variety.
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.
The Supremes, which Wilson helped form when she was just 15-years-old, were originally called The Primettes before changing their name. They released five No.1 hit songs between 1964 and 1965, including “Stop! In the Name of Love,” and “Baby Love.”
The Supremes, which eventually became known as Diana Ross and the Supremes, was formed with Ross, Wilson, and Florence Ballard. However, the latter was replaced with Cindy Birdsong in 1967. Ballard died of a heart attack at age 32.
The Supremes received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on March 11, 1994.
Here’s what you need to know about Mary Wilson:
1. Wilson Discussed a Possible Supremes Reunion in January, ‘It’s Really Up to Diana’
It was just a month ago the Wilson was discussing the likelihood that The Supremes could have a reunion. She told The Holywood Reporter in January:
Well, let’s put it this way: It’s really up to Diana. I don’t think she wants to do that. It doesn’t make sense unless you come together lovingly. Or at least have an understanding. It can be an understanding, that’s fine. But I don’t think she does want to. So therefore I’m going on with my life. I look at it like this, especially with this pandemic: Who knows when the end may come. And at 76 and a half years old I’m not going to sit around waiting for something. As my mother used to say, don’t cry over spilled milk. I have too much to live for now and be happy about.
Wilson also reminisced about the group in their early days. “We sat outside Motown every day until one of the producers came out and said, ‘You know what, we need some background hand claps.’ When Gordy saw how ‘serious’ they were, he signed the group. “Our parents had to actually sign the contract because we were underage.”
2. The Supremes Split Up Went After Ross Went Solo
The Supremes were massively popular throughout the ’60s. They released a total of 12 No. 1 hit singles as a group, including “Back in My Arms Again,” “You Keep Me Hangin’ On,” and “You Can’t Hurry Love.”
In 1970, when Ross decided to go solo, the group disbanded. In 1988, Wilson, Ross, and Ballard were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
3. Wilson Had 3 Children With Ex-Husband Pedro Ferrer
Wilson married Pedro Ferrer in Las Vegas on May 11, 1974, Closer Weekly reported. The couple had three children together: Turkessa, Pedro Antonio Jr., and Rafael. Wilson and Ferrer divorced in 1981.
Rafael tragically died in 1994 at age 16. Wilson and her son were traveling on Interstate 15 between Los Angeles and Las Vegas when they were involved in a car crash. Their Jeep Cherokee spun off the highway and overturned. While Wilson’s injuries were minor, her son never recovered.
4. Wilson Said She Never Recovered From the Death of Her Son
The pop icon opened up about the death of her son on the Dan Wooton Interview, according to Closer Weekly.
Wilson said, “It’s like a hole but you’ve still got your heart, you still have your heart. And I think that’s what got me through, still having that heart and knowing life can be up and it can be down and you’ve got to learn how to roll with the punches as they say. I mean I’m not over it, I’ll never be over it.”
“I have his picture all over my house and sometimes I will look at it and I’ll just burst into tears,” she continued. “And sometimes I’ll just smile, you know, you’ve just got to, something in you, you’ve got to have that.”
5. Tributes Filled Twitter Following the News of Wilson’s Sudden Death
Tributes to the legendary Motown singer filled Twitter on Monday evening. While Wilson was an idol to many, according to the singer, she was just “normal.”
In 2019, Wilson said to The Guardian, “I tell my daughter: “I’m very normal” and she says “Mom: you’re not normal”. I’ve gone incognito, to the grocery store, no make-up on, and been recognized. I’m like: “How can you tell?” And they’re like: “Oh girl, we can tell”. I told one: “I wish I was Mary Wilson – I wish I had her money!”