Singer Mary Wilson, who co-founded the legendary Motown trio The Supremes, died suddenly Monday night at her home in Henderson, Nevada, according to her longtime publicist Jay Schwartz. She was 76.
“We are devastated,” Schwartz said in a statement to USA TODAY that did not give a cause of death.
Wilson co-founded the hit-making group at age 15 from a Detroit housing project, starting as a quartet called The Primettes with Diana Ross, Betty McGlown and Florence Ballard.
The Primettes lobbied Motown founder Berry Gordy to sign them to his record label. He finally agreed if the young group changed its name. On January 15, 1961, the Primettes officially became The Supremes, who became a trio in 1962 – with Ross, Ballard and Wilson.
Wilson stayed until The Supremes officially disbanded in 1977. The singer, along with Ross and Ballard, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988.
The influential group’s first No. 1, million-selling song, “Where Did Our Love Go,” was released June 17, 1964. The Supremes were Motown’s most successful act of the 1960s, scoring 12 No. 1 singles.
Two days ago, Wilson posted a video on her YouTube channel commemorating Black History Month and the 60th anniversary of the Supremes in January, announcing plans to release new recordings along with previously released music to potentially be released on her 77th birthday, March 6.
“So much is happening,” said Wilson, who noted that February 8 was the 46th anniversary of one the Supremes’ greatest hits, “Stop! In the Name of Love.”
The artist never gave up hope of getting the legendary band back together under the right circumstances.
“Well, let’s put it this way: It’s really up to Diana,” she told The Hollywood Reporter in January. “But I don’t think she does want to. So therefore I’m going on with my life. I look at it like this, especially with this pandemic: Who knows when the end may come. And at 76 and a half years old I’m not going to sit around waiting for something.”
Services will be private due to COVID-19 restrictions, according to the statement. A celebration of Mary Wilson’s life will take place later this year. The family asked in lieu of flowers, that friends and fans support UNCF.org and the Humpty Dumpty Institute.