Mary Wilson: “We were just in it to make music”

From the archive: the Supremes singer on her favourite records

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Originally published in Uncut in 2015

Marvin Gaye
What’s Going On
TAMLA, 1971

Mary Wilson: The LP cover captures him in all his beauty as a man and as a thinker, and the songs take us into the new generation that was at hand. They touch me in my very core. I could feel the pain in the words and realised I was not the only one who felt the heaviness of what was going on in the world. Marvin’s was not a common trait found in the industry – he was a philosopher trapped in his own beliefs about the world and life. It should be rated as the greatest album of the 20th Century.

Booker T & The MG’s
Green Onions
STAX, 1962

After graduating high school in Detroit, I got a job at a record shop on the east side, not far from Motown. When “Green Onions” came out, it was the only record selling. People were lining up around the block. I’d never thought about our group making money. We were just in it to make music. This opened my eyes to what was to come if we got a hit, if it was possible the ‘no hit Supremes’ could make money just doing what we did naturally.

Doris Day
Qué Será, Será (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)

I loved her movies, but fell more in love with her when she came out with this. That was the year that The Primettes [early Supremes] started singing. This has been my favourite song whenever I burst out singing, even today. I would put my younger cousins to sleep with this song. For me, it was a lullaby. I was one of the first black women to start wearing a blonde wig, before Tina Turner even, and that was because of Ms Day.

LaVern Baker
Jim Dandy

I grew up loving this lady. This was one of the first rock’n’ roll records I ever heard, I sang it every day. It was my first introduction to rock’n’roll. I got the chance to meet her when we were on tour, around ’65. We were doing a lot of shows in army bases in Asia, and someone said, “LaVern Baker is in the audience and she wants to see you.” And I’m like, “The LaVern Baker?!” She came backstage and she and I became friends.

John Coltrane
A Love Supreme

The liner notes written by Mr Coltrane are a testament to God. He wrote that he had experienced a spiritual awakening, which led him to a richer, fuller, more productive life. This album is a humble offering to God. For all of us listeners, it is a beautiful musical experience of a man touched by God. When I first heard it, I fell in love with its melody and the truth of his motives to give to the world this music.

Stevie Wonder
TAMLA, 1973

I remember when Stevie came for his audition at Motown when he was nine, something like that. Mr Berry Gordy said, “I have some young genius coming to audition today.” We were just 16 or 17. But anyway, we never met a genius that we knew of, so we stayed and we waited. Stevie arrived, went in Studio 8, jumped on every instrument and started playing it! He taught me what a genius really was. Years later, when this LP came out, it was phenomenal. I listen to it a lot now.

Nancy Wilson
Guess Who I Saw Today

This was one of the first jazz songs that I really got into. I heard it once and I memorised every single line from just hearing it that one time. And I would sing this song all the time. She and I met later and became like sisters because of the Wilson thing, and I still call her, even now she’s retired. I loved her interpretation of it. A lot of people have sung this, but no-one does it like Nancy Wilson. Her version was perfect.

The Four Tops
Four Tops Live!

People don’t think of singers as groupies of other singers, but I’m a groupie of The Four Tops. If you look at the photo on the flipside to this album, The Four Tops are onstage and you see me jumping up to join them! It shows that I am a groupie of theirs. I just love their harmonies – “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)”, “Reach Out (I’ll Be There)” and “7 Rooms Of Gloom” are my favourites of their songs.