The Supremes – KHJ 2nd Annual Appreciation Concert – April 29, 1967 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
2021 is offering no let-up in loss – and we thought 2020 was bad. The sad news just yesterday of the passing of Mary Wilson, founder and backbone of the Supremes offered one more bit of proof that legends are going to leave us just as much as everyone else.
Mary Wilson gained worldwide recognition as a founding member of The Supremes, the most successful Motown act of the 1960s and the best-charting female group in U.S. chart history, as well as one of the all-time best-selling girl groups in the world. The group released a record-setting twelve number-one hit singles on the Billboard Hot 100, ten of which Wilson sang backing vocals on.
Wilson remained with the group following the departures of other original members, Florence Ballard in 1967 and Diana Ross in 1970, though the group disbanded following Wilson’s own departure in 1977. Wilson later became a New York Times best-selling author in 1986 with the release of her first autobiography, Dreamgirl: My Life as a Supreme, which set records for sales in its genre, and later for the autobiography Supreme Faith: Someday We’ll Be Together.
Continuing a successful career as a concert performer in Las Vegas, Wilson also worked in activism, fighting to pass Truth in Music Advertising bills and donating to various charities. Wilson was inducted along with Ross and Ballard (as members of the Supremes) into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988.
Wilson died in her sleep on February 8, in Henderson, Nevada at the age of 76. Her cause of death is unknown.[ Two days before her death, she had announced on YouTube that she was planning to release new solo material with Universal Music Group, and hoped it would come out before March 6, her birthday.
Motown founder Berry Gordy said he was “extremely shocked and saddened” by the news of her death and said Wilson was “quite a star in her own right and over the years continued to work hard to boost the legacy of the Supremes.”
Wilson is survived by her daughter, son, adopted son, several grandchildren, a sister and brother.
As a reminder of those pivotal days when Mary Wilson was a Supreme, here is a concert from April 29, 1967 – the occasion was the second annual KHJ Appreciation Concert, with Buffalo Springfield, The Seeds, Brenda Holloway and the 5th Dimension as opening acts.
Although this is a mixboard tape, made by the Hollywood Bowl engineers at the time, the sound is rough as it was never intended to be anything other than a record of an event. But it’s the history and the moment that are important in this case and a tribute to a phenomenal artist whose work became synonymous with a goodly chunk of our youth and fond memories.
And we’re forever grateful.