Mary Wilson, Co-Founder of The Supremes, Dead at 76

Wilson's publicist said she "passed away suddenly" on Monday night

mary wilson
Mary Wilson performs at Amoeba Records on November 18, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.
Getty Images

Motown legend and founding member of The Supremes Mary Wilson has passed away at the age of 76, according to her publicist Jay Schwartz. Schwartz said Wilson died in her home in Las Vegas on Monday evening, and he did not provide a cause of death, but he did say that she “passed away suddenly.”

Wilson began her career by co-founding The Primettes — who would later go on to become The Supremes — with Diana Ross and Florence Ballard. They were signed by Motown Records in 1961, and they went on to become of the most successful groups of all time. Wilson appeared on all 12 of The Supremes’s No. 1 singles, including “Baby Love,” “Stop! In the Name of Love,” “Where Did Our Love Go” and “Come See About Me.” The Supremes were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988.

Motown founder Berry Gordy said in a statement that he was “extremely shocked and saddened to hear of the passing of a major member of the Motown family.”

“The Supremes were always known as the ‘sweethearts of Motown,’” he wrote. “Mary, along with Diana Ross and Florence Ballard, came to Motown in the early 1960s. After an unprecedented string of Number One hits, television and nightclub bookings, they opened doors for themselves, the other Motown acts, and many, many others. … 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.”

Wilson’s bandmate Diana Ross also paid tribute to her, sharing her condolences on Twitter. “I just woke up to this news, my condolences to you Mary’s family, I am reminded that each day is a gift, I have so many wonderful memories of our time together ‘The Supremes’ will live on in our hearts,” she wrote.

Wilson left the Supremes in 1977, and in 1986 she became a New York Times best-selling author thanks to her tell-all memoir Dreamgirl: My Life as a Supreme. She is survived by her daughter, son, grandchildren, a sister and a brother.

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