Mary Wilson

Happy birthday Mary Wilson (born March 6, 1944) an American vocalist, best known as a founding member of the Supremes. Wilson remained with the group following the departures of other original members, Florence Ballard in 1967 and Diana Ross in 1970. Following Wilson's own departure in 1977, the group disbanded. Wilson has since released three solo albums, five singles and two best selling autobiographies, Dreamgirl: My Life As a Supreme, a record setter for sales in its genre and Supreme Faith: Someday We'll Be Together, both books later released as an updated combination.
Mary Wilson was born to Sam and Johnnie Mae Wilson in Greenville, Mississippi. Wilson was the eldest of Johnnie Mae's three children including a brother, Roosevelt, and a sister, Katherine. Wilson lived with her parents and moved to St. Louis and later to Chicago before living with her aunt Ivory "I.V." and uncle John L. Pippin in Detroit. Wilson reunited with her mother and siblings at the age of 9. To make ends meet, Wilson's mother worked as a domestic worker. Before reaching her teenage years, Wilson and her family had settled at Detroit's upstart housing project, the Brewster-Douglass Housing Projects.
The Primettes signed to Motown Records in 1961, changing their name to The Supremes. In between that period, McGlown left to get married and was replaced by Barbara Martin. In 1962, the group was reduced to a trio after Martin's departure. The Supremes scored their first hit in 1963 with the song, "When the Lovelight Starts Shining Through His Eyes", and reached number-one on the pop charts for the first time with the hit, "Where Did Our Love Go", becoming their first of twelve number one singles for which Wilson was credited as member of the group (it later emerged that Motown used in-house background singers, The Andantes, for the hits Love Child and Someday We'll Be Together).
By 1964, the group had become international superstars. In 1967, Motown president Berry Gordy changed the name of the group to Diana Ross & The Supremes and, after a period of tension, Florence Ballard was removed from the Supremes that July. Cindy Birdsong was chosen to take her place. The new lineup continued to record hit singles, although several stalled outside of the top 20 chart range. Ross departed from the group in early 1970, and at her farewell performance Jean Terrell was introduced as the replacement for Ross. According to Wilson in her memoirs, Berry Gordy told Wilson that he thought of having Syreeta Wright join the group in a last-minute change, after Terrell had already been introduced as lead singer, to which Wilson refused.
With Terrell, the Supremes recorded 7 top-forty hit singles in a three year period. One River Deep/Mountain High was a collaboration with the Four Tops. Others included "Up the Ladder to the Roof", "Stoned Love", "Nathan Jones" and "Floy Joy". Of these releases, only Stoned Love reached a # 1 status (R&B Chart). Unlike the latter years with Ross, however, all but one of the hits Automatically Sunshine succeeded in reaching the top 20 charts, with two breaking into the top 10. During this period Wilson contributed lead or co-lead vocals to several Supremes songs including the hits "Floy Joy" and "Automatically Sunshine" and the title track of the 1971 album Touch.
Mary Wilson first met Florence Ballard at an elementary school in Detroit. The duo became friends while singing in the school's talent show. In 1959, Ballard asked Wilson to audition for Milton Jenkins, who was forming a sister group to his male vocal trio, the Primes. Wilson was soon accepted in the group known as The Primettes, with Diana Ross and Betty McGlown. Wilson graduated from Detroit's Northeastern High School in 1962. Despite her mother's insistence she go to college, Wilson instead focused on her music career.
Wilson got involved in a protracted legal battle with Motown over management of the Supremes. After an out-of-court settlement, Wilson signed with Motown for solo work, releasing a disco-heavy self-titled album in 1979. A single, from the album, "Red Hot" has a modest showing of #90 on the pop charts. Midway through production of a second solo album in 1980, Motown dropped her from their roster. Throughout the mid 1980s, Wilson focused on performances in musical theater productions including Beehive, Dancing in the Streets and Supreme Soul.
Continuing a successful career as a concert performer, Wilson also became a musicians' rights activist as well as a musical theater performer and organizer of various museum displays of the Supremes' famed costumes. Wilson was inducted along with Ross and Ballard (as members of the Supremes) into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988.


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