RIP Mary Wilson: Past CYInterview Guest, Founding Member of The Supremes Dead at 76; We Republish Our 2009 Conversation with the Legend
In the history of music, The Supremes are at the pinnacle of success. Sadly, this week, one of the group’s founding members, Mary Wilson, died. The singer was 76 years old. Ms. Wilson, Diana Ross, and the late Florence Ballard, who comprised The Supremes, rose to legendary status with 12 number one hits.
Even after Diana Ross left the group in 1970, Mary Wilson continued with a solo career lasting decades. In 2000, she shared the story of what she and her groupmates accomplished, with her book, Dreamgirl and Supreme: My Life as a Supreme. In 2019, she followed that up with a second book, Supreme Glamour.
For years, there were hopes that Mary Wilson and Diana Ross would reunite for a Supremes reunion tour. Unfortunately, that never happened.
Ms. Wilson’s responses to our questions about her friendship with Diana Ross, during her CYInterview with us in 2009, were covered by Page Six of the NY Post in a piece entitled, Fading Feud [see here].
For many years, Mary Wilson lived in Henderson, part of the Las Vegas metropolitan area. The Entertainment Capital of the World was her home. Many knew that the great Mary Wilson lived here.
Past CYInterview guest, music legend LaMonte McLemore of The 5th Dimension [see here and here] had this posted on his social media, regarding Ms. Wilson’s death this week: “Mary was LaMonte’s dear friend, Las Vegas neighbor, even Mac’s cheerleader (with Gladys Knight!) at celebrity softball games.”
Mary and past CYInterview guest, Las Vegas entertainment legend Frank Marino [see here and here] were also friends. Mr. Marino said of her passing this week on his social media, “Heartbroken to hear about the passing of my good friend, Mary Wilson. She will always reign Supreme!”
Ms. Wilson is a music legend who, indeed, will always reign supreme. She will be missed by many. We extend our condolences to her family, friends and fans at this difficult time. May she rest in peace.
In our 2009 CYInterview with Mary Wilson, we spoke about a variety of topics. You can read and listen to the entire CYInterview below:
Listen to the entire Mary Wilson CYInterview:
(Backup Player: Including IE)
Listen to the entire Mary Wilson CYInterview on YouTube:
Chris Yandek: How have you been in recent years? What else has been new?
Mary Wilson: Well, I’m doing very well actually and kinda traveling around the world, you know, doing that. I’m recording as well so that’s something I’m very happy to say. Hopefully, I’ll have something out on the airways very soon.
Chris Yandek: As you mentioned, you still perform all over the world, you are involved in numerous causes, you always have other projects going on. What is it that keeps you going today during this solo career?
Mary Wilson: Well, hey! I enjoy doing what I’m doing. When I met Florence [Ballard] and Diana [Ross], it was one of those things that I knew I wanted to do this for the rest of my life. So, I don’t have a problem, you know, still doing this. I’m very blessed to still be able to do it.
Chris Yandek: But so many performers come and go, let one thing or another tear them down, they have demons, but you’re still here, you’re active after more than 40 years. So many would say, how have you done it? What was the key?
Mary Wilson: Yeah. It’s definitely 50. I’m proud of that. I think that maybe the difference in people continuing on and people stopping is that it depends on what you want for yourself. I enjoy being on stage. So, since I enjoy being on stage and doing all the things that go along with being a performer, I don’t have a problem with trying to find something else to do. I was talking to someone else and I was saying this type of job, being an entertainer, actually leads you to other different avenues.
So, even though I get on stage and I sing every night, but I’m also doing other types of activities that are still entertaining. I’m here because this is what I like to do. Some people might just want to try to be on top of the charts and if they don’t then they’re unhappy and then maybe go and try to get out of it and do something different. Well, I’m not really trying to be a recording star anymore. I’ve kind of done that. We’ve had 12 number one records and so, my thing is about entertaining.
Chris Yandek: You’re gonna have a new album out sometime this year, what can we expect from it?
Mary Wilson: Well, the actual CD is the original composition of I think about maybe 10 songs. They are songs that were written with me and my life in mind. The writers were purveyed to my diaries so they saw many of my thoughts. I told them what I wanted to sing about. I told them just, you know, my feelings about life. They know me. So, we were able and they were able to make compositions that were about what I believe. So it’s all about what’s really going on now in the world and what I feel about life, love, and you know, pursuit of happiness I guess you could say.
The songs will be there, but they are not geared towards, say the younger set generation as much as they are geared toward people from my generation. So I’m not trying to compete with those who are on the charts. As I was saying, I’m not trying to do that. If one goes number one that’s even better, but I mean, that’s not what I’m really after.
Chris Yandek: What have you learned, what is the most important thing you’ve learned about yourself in this, you know, 65 years?
Mary Wilson: About my life?
Chris Yandek: About your life, experiences, everything, sure.
Mary Wilson: Well, I learned a lot son. That would take a whole other show.
Chris Yandek: Ok. How about the most important thing to you, to yourself?
Mary Wilson: Yeah. Basically, what we’ve been speaking about. Why I’m still in the business. What makes me happy. I’ve learned that’s very important for people to really try to do or to be, to do what makes them happy. It’s not about trying to become something that you don’t want or just working. I think what I’ve learned is that life is about doing what you want.
Chris Yandek: Calling it your own.
Mary Wilson: You can say that if you want. When you get a little older, you realize that you don’t have to try and keep up with everyone else. You don’t try to be what someone else wants you to be. You really need to see what you want to be and I think that’s kinda what I’m expressing and what I’ve found.
Chris Yandek: When it comes to the numerous social causes you’ve been involved in, I have to say, you seem to be everywhere, you seem to be involved in so many different things, what is it that inspires you to be out there so much making a difference?
Mary Wilson: Well, again, I’ve had a long time to be part of a successful group and get the awards and things of that. So, that’s been really rewarding and then I decided that, well, you know, life is more than about accumulating awards. It’s about perhaps, you know, being there for other people as well. So, that’s probably what keeps me involved in different causes.
Chris Yandek: So, when it comes to The Supremes, was there ever a moment for you looking back on that, where you knew you were part of something that would forever change society and would be as historic as it has been?
Mary Wilson: I don’t think I was thinking of it in that particular way. However, I can say for sure that when we were doing certain things at a certain time especially in the 60s, it was very clear that we were involved in something that was very significant. That it would last for so many years? I don’t know if we thought about that as much because when you’re young, as I’ve said many times, you don’t really, really think about time and getting old. I thought getting old was you have to be reborn. (Laughs) So, yeah, I think there was something within us knowing that we were definitely doing something very, very, you know special.”
Chris Yandek: So, what does it mean to you when somebody comes up to you and talks about something that happened maybe in the 60s or the 70s for example? What does it mean to you when someone says, “Oh I remember that hit, I used to listen to it all the time, I have the record. I use to have this or that” What does it mean to you?
Mary Wilson: Well, it means a lot actually. It means an awful lot because now looking back, you know, it’s very obvious that the music, the lifestyle, what we did really touched a lot of lives. So now then when people say that, I really, really appreciate it probably even more now than I did then. It’s always very gratifying to hear that. Sometimes I hear things that are negative against me, against Diana, against the whole thing, Motown, whatever. That really sometimes pisses me off because, you know, I look at all the wonderful things I think that we did accomplish as a group and those things are hurtful too and they happen.”
Chris Yandek: Well, I’m sure there were many disagreements, you know, many conflicts as the years went on and we’ll talk about a few of those later. But, you know what, you would say to yourself, you know, all musical groups have conflicts, all record labels have conflicts with their talents. Am I right? Am I wrong?
Mary Wilson: Oh sure. Oh sure. I mean, I have a lot of friends who, you know, have been in the business as long as us or almost as long, some of the girl groups. We talk all the time. We’re always talking. They tell you about some of their problems and I realize that everybody has problems. It’s just how you get through them and move on. So, yeah, it’s not unique to us at all.
Chris Yandek: Yeah. I think many people would be wondering how would you describe your relationship with Diana Ross today?
Mary Wilson: Well, you know, it’s not like I would want it to be, but it’s better than most people think. We still really love each other no matter what you guys think. We love each other very much. So, you know, I think it definitely could be better, but I mean, I think other people need to look at their lives and see the people that they are not as close to as they should be and leave us alone. Let us handle our own situation cause many times it makes it worse.
Chris Yandek: Do you ever think there would be a possibility that there would ever be a true reunion tour of The Supremes, where you and Diana Ross could put everything aside and make that happen?
Mary Wilson: Well, you know I don’t have a crystal ball, but I can say that I certainly would like it to happen, but it does take all of us to want that.
Chris Yandek: At the end of June you’re gonna be over in the U.K. on a once in a lifetime Motown Legends Tour. What is that gonna be like getting back together with all of these people after, you know, 40 something years?
Mary Wilson: Again, you know, this is kinda like one of those questions you just asked. It’s really nice to be able to be back with people that you grew up with and are kinda like family. I don’t get a chance to see all these people all that time. This is a wonderful opportunity as well. I cannot wait for the tour. … It’s gonna be fun. The people there, I just spoken to the promoter over there, he said they are so excited in England that we’re having this tour. We’re playing at the Wembley in London. We’re doing all the big arenas there in England in various cities. So, we’re all very excited about it.
Chris Yandek: You’ve had all this acclaim and all this success, you know, as you say, for 50 years, but, you know, so many people either develop an ego, either have arrogance, but you just seem to be so humble. You seem to be so excited to still be involved in the scene. My question is, where do you get it from?
Mary Wilson: I guess I was just blessed to be able to do what I want to do in life. When I say do, have the type of career and have the type of life that I want. I think that if everybody were doing something that they enjoy we’d all be happier. Sometimes you can’t do that you know?
I knew that I’ve been in that situation where even though I was in a great group, there are things you have to do that don’t make you so happy, it might be good for the whole, but I’d rather be doing this. So, you know, it’s really great for me, especially when I look back and say, ‘Wow! I’m still doing what I want to do, performing on stage for people.’ So, maybe that’s it. I don’t know. But also, I guess I was just born this way too. What can I say? (Laughs)
Chris Yandek: What do you hope to bring to the table with your music, with your performing, I guess you could say for the rest of your life?
Mary Wilson: I’m still in this because of whatever God given talent I have. That’s my gift to the world. So, obviously to record and have something that expresses that gift is my joy and is my desire. I would like to bring, you know, more years of happiness to people if they are down or depressed. I put on Sade and I put on Luther [Vandross] and I put on Nancy Wilson so I want people to put on Mary Wilson to help them through the day, to give them some happiness, to give them a moment of relaxation, whatever is needed and we receive through music. I certainly receive that when I listen to various people. So, that’s my desire that people will have the same thing when they hear Mary Wilson up to date.
You can read an in-depth statement about Mary Wilson’s passing at her official website by clicking here.