The Supremes co-founder Diana Ross on Tuesday paid tribute to her friend and longtime bandmate, Mary Wilson, who died on Monday of undisclosed causes. She was 76.
“I just woke up to this news,” Ross tweeted. “My condolences to you, Mary’s family.
“I am reminded that each day is a gift,” she added. “I have so many wonderful memories of our time together. The Supremes will live on in our hearts.”
Wilson, who was also a co-founder of the Supremes, had already briefly sung in a group led by Aretha Franklin’s younger sister, Carolyn, when she was approached by Florence Ballard, a neighbor in Detroit’s Brewster projects, to form a new group, reported Variety.
It said this new group would serve as a “sister act” to the Primes, a male quintet that included Paul Williams and Eddie Kendricks, both future members of the Motown unit, the Temptations.
Variety said the two girls were soon joined by Ross, who would only take the professional name “Diana” after the group’s first hits.
With fourth member Betty McGlown and her successor, Barbara Martin, they would perform as the Primettes until they rechristened themselves as the Supremes in early 1961, Variety said.
With lead vocalist Diana Ross and founding member Florence Ballard — and with Ballard’s replacement Cindy Birdsong — Wilson appeared on all 12 of the Supremes’ No. 1 pop hits from 1964-69, according to Variety.
It said that, during that period, the act — the biggest of Motown’s vocal groups thanks to their silken sound — charted a total of 16 top-10 pop singles and 19 top-10 R&B 45s, six of which were chart-toppers.
The Supremes released their first No. 1 single, “Where Did Our Love Go,” in 1964, Huffpost reported.
It said Ballard — who died in 1976 — was replaced by Cindy Birdstrong.
Ross left the group a few years later, and Wilson stayed with the Supremes until the group was officially disbanded in 1977, Huffpost said.
It said Wilson later embarked on a solo career and released her self-titled debut album in 1979.
In her 1986 autobiography, “Dreamgirl: My Life as a Supreme”, Wilson detailed her time as a Supreme.
Wilson and Ross had publicly discussed a potential reunion tour in 2000 that didn’t materialize, Huffpost said.
It reported that Wilson said on “The Talk” last year that she and Ross were “family.”
“We started singing 1959; we were just 13 years old, Huffpost quoted Wilson as saying then. “We were sisters.”
Motown Museum chair and chief executive officer Robin Terry said that the “world has lost one of the brightest stars in our Motown family.
“Mary Wilson was an icon,” he said in his tribute. “She broke barriers and records as an original member of the Supremes, one of the greatest music acts of all time.”