The Supremes' Mary Wilson Dead at 76: Diana Ross and Berry Gordy Pay Tribute

Mary Wilson, who was one of the founding members of The Supremes, passed away suddenly at her home in Las Vegas on Monday, Feb. 8. A cause of death was not revealed.

By Elyse Dupre Feb 09, 2021 1:39 PMTags
Mary WilsonNoel Vasquez for Getty Images

Fans are mourning the death of Mary Wilson.

The singer, who was one of the founding members of The Supremes, died suddenly at her home in Las Vegas on Monday, Feb. 8, according to her longtime publicist Jay Schwartz. She was 76 years old. A cause of death was not revealed.

A press release noted services will be held privately due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and that a celebration of Wilson's life will take place later this year. In the release, Schwartz spoke about Wilson's legacy and how she "changed the face of pop music to become a trendsetter who broke down social, racial and gender barriers." 

Wilson was born in Greenville, Mississippi in 1944. When she was a young child, she moved to Detroit, Michigan with her family. It was there that she joined The Primettes in 1959 and signed with Motown Records as The Supremes in 1961.

The group, whose original members also included Florence Ballard and Diana Ross, had several no. 1 hits, such as "Where Did Our Love Go," "Stop! In the Name of Love," "Come See About Me" and "You Can't Hurry Love."

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In 1967, after Cindy Birdsong replaced Ballard, the trio was renamed Diana Ross & The Supremes. Ross left the group to pursue a solo career in 1970, and Wilson continued to perform with Birdsong and Jean Terrell. She then launched her own solo career in 1977 and produced popular singles like "Red Hot."

Over the course of her career, Wilson was honored with many accolades for her time in The Supremes. The group was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1988 and received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1994. 

In addition to being a singer, Wilson was a mother, a grandmother, an author and a humanitarian. She also competed on season 28 of Dancing With the Stars.

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After news of Wilson's passing broke, several stars paid tribute to the late legend. In a statement, Berry Gordy, who founded Motown Records, said he was "extremely shocked and saddened to hear of the passing of a major member of the Motown family."

"The Supremes were always known as the 'sweethearts of Motown,'" he continued. "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. 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."

Ross also tweeted, "I just woke up to this news, my condolences to you Mary's family. I am reminded that each day is a gift, I have so many wonderful memories of our time together 'The Supremes' will live on, in our hearts."