The Motown legend’s longtime publicist confirms the vocalist’s passing as Motown founder Berry Gordy says the news of Mary’s death leaves him ‘extremely shocked and saddened.’
Mary Wilson, a founding and original member of The Supremes, has passed away. Her longtime publicist Jay Schwartz confirmed that the vocalist died on Monday night, February 8 at her home in in Henderson, Nevada. She was 76.
The circumstances of her death were not immediately revealed, but her longtime friend and publicist told the press that Mary died suddenly. Funeral services will be private due to COVID-19, but there will be a public memorial planned to take place later this year.
Paying tribute to Mary was Motown founder Berry Gordy, who said that the news of her passing has left him “extremely shocked and saddened.” He said in a statement, “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,” Berry remembered. “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.”
He went on raving about the late singer, “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.”
Mary co-founded The Supremes as a 15-year-old old in a Detroit housing project. Along with Florence Ballard and Diana Ross, the trio first performed as The Primettes before becoming The Supremes. They signed for Motown Records on January 21, 1961.
The group enjoyed their heyday as the most successful Motown act of the 1960s and the best-charting female group in U.S. history, as well as one of the all-time best-selling girl groups in the world. Mary remained with the group following the departures of other original members, Florence in 1967 and Diana in 1970, though the group eventually disbanded following Mary’s own departure in 1977.
Mary was inducted along with Florence and Diana as members of the Supremes into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988. Just two days prior to her passing, Mary put up a video on her YouTube channel announcing that she was working with Universal Music on releasing solo material. “Hopefully some of that will be out on my birthday, March 6,” she said in the video.