Mary Wilson, co-founder of The Supremes, has died aged 76. According to her publicist, she passed away suddenly at her home near Las Vegas, Nevada.
Wilson successfully auditioned for Detroit vocal group The Primettes in 1959 and was still at school when they signed to Motown, changing their name to The Supremes.
By 1962 the group had become a trio – Wilson, Florence Ballard and Diana Ross – embarking on a run of hits that would make them the most successful Motown act of the 1960s and one of the best-selling girl groups of all-time. 1964’s “Where Did Our Love Go” was the first of 12 US No. 1 singles.
Wilson stayed with The Supremes after the departures of Ballard in 1967 and then Ross in 1970, finally quitting in 1977, at which point the group disbanded. She went on to record two solo albums, before becoming a regular performer in musical theatre and in Las Vegas. She was also an author, activist and motivational speaker.
At the time of her death, Wilson was working on new music. She was also hoping to issue some of her previously unreleased 1970s solo material.
Motown founder Berry Gordy Jr said in a statement that he was “extremely shocked and saddened” to hear of Wilson’s death. “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.”