Motown singer and The Supremes co-founder Mary Wilson has died, US media reported Tuesday. She was 76.
She founded the US group aged 15 while living in a Detroit housing project, according to Variety, and continued with the band long after lead singer Diana Ross’ departure, eventually going on to be inducted into the 1988 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
“Mary Wilson was extremely special to me. She was a trailblazer, a diva, and will be deeply missed,” said Berry Gordy, founder of Motown records who were behind many of the band’s hits.
She died at her Las Vegas home on February 8, her publicist Jay Schwartz told ET News.
Only two days ago Wilson uploaded a short clip to YouTube celebrating Black history month and announcing: “exciting news about The Supremes, Florence Ballard and unreleased materials.”
The circumstances around her death have not been released, her publicist said.
Born March 12 1944 in Greenville, Mississippi, Wilson was brought up by her aunt and uncle, before moving to Detroit with her mother when she was 12.
There she began singing and with Ballard founded the group that would eventually become known as the Supremes.
Despite limited early success, the band struck success in the late sixties with hits like “Stop! In the Name of Love” and “Baby Love”.
But following Ross’s departure in 1970 for a solo career, the group never regained its dominance on the US charts, but did enjoy some hits such as “River Deep, Mountain High” and “Stoned Love”.
Wilson continued to perform in the band — Ross was replaced by Jean Terrell — remaining a constant during the shifting cast of members until the group finally folded in 1977.
In 1988 she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Supremes.
Little heard of in the intervening years, she burst back onto the public stage with her 1986 memoir “Dreamgirl: My Life As a Supreme”, detailing her time in the band — and her relationship with Ross.
In 1974 she married Pedro Ferrer, but the couple divorced in 1981.
She is survived by their two children, daughter Turkessa and son Pedro Antonio Jr., as well as 10 grandchildren.