U.S. rhythm and blues singer Mary Wilson, who rose to fame as a member of the legendary female singing trio The Supremes in the 1960s, has died at the age of 76.
Her friend, publicist Jay Schwartz, said Wilson died suddenly Monday at her home in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Wilson founded The Supremes with Diana Ross and Florence Ballard while living in a public housing project in Detroit, Michigan in 1959. The group signed with local R&B music label Motown Records two years later, but their first hit did not occur until 1964 with the classic chart-topping single “Where Did Our Love Go.”
The Supremes would go on to sing a record 12 number one hits, including such classics as “Baby Love,” “Come See About Me,” “Stop! In the Name of Love,” “I Hear a Symphony,” and “You Can’t Hurry Love.” Their songs, numerous television appearances and live shows made them one of most popular musical acts of the 1960s, and helped transform Motown Records into an iconic figure on the American cultural landscape.
Ballard was replaced by Cindy Birdsong in 1967, and Ross left the group in 1969 for a solo career, but Wilson remained with The Supremes with various singers until it was formally disbanded in 1976. She remained active for many years as a solo performer, motivational speaker and U.S. cultural ambassador. The lineup of Wilson, Ross and Ballard were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988.
Motown founder Berry Gordy praised Wilson in a statement as “quite a star in her own right” who worked hard over the years “to boost the legacy of The Supremes.”
“She was a trailblazer, a diva and will be deeply missed,” Gordy said.