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She Was One-Third of 'Most Iconic Female Singing Trio'

Mary Wilson of the Supremes dies suddenly at 76
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 9, 2021 6:21 AM CST

(Newser) – Mary Wilson, a founding member of the legendary Motown group the Supremes, died suddenly Monday. She was 76. Friend and publicist Jay Schwartz said she died at her home in Las Vegas, but did not provide a cause of death. "She was a trailblazer, a diva and will be deeply missed," Berry Gordy, founder of Motown Records, said in a statement, adding he was "extremely shocked and saddened" by the announcement. "Absolutely shocked," tweeted Paul Stanley of Kiss, per the Guardian. "I was just on a Zoom call with her Wednesday for about an hour & never could have imagined this." On Saturday, Wilson had announced that Universal Music would be releasing an album she recorded in the 1970s along with some new recordings, per Variety. "Hopefully some of that will be out on my birthday, March 6," Wilson said in a YouTube video.

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Wilson was 15 when she formed the Primettes with friends from a Detroit housing project: Diana Ross, Florence Ballard, and Betty McGlown. The band would shed McGlown's successor Barbara Martin before renaming as the Supremes in 1961. "Still the most iconic female singing trio of all time," per Variety, the group produced 12 No. 1 pop hits by 1969, including "Baby Love," "Stop! In the Name of Love," "You Can't Hurry Love," and "You Keep Me Hanging On." Lead singer Ross then went solo. "Wilson remained the lone constant in an ever-shifting [Supremes] lineup after 1972," Variety notes. Ballard had been replaced in 1967. Wilson would eventually have her own solo career. She also wrote several books and appeared on Dancing With the Stars in 2019. She'd been preparing to celebrate the Supremes' 60th anniversary in 2021. "So much is happening!" she said in the video. (Read more obituary stories.)

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