Mary Wilson, legendary member of The Supremes, performs tonight at Sunset Junction Fair in Silverlake
Former Supreme Mary Wilson is performing tonight at the Sunset Junction Street Fair in Silverlake at 9 p.m. Unfortunately, I’m going to be in Beverly Hills sipping wine at the LA Gay & Lesbian Center’s annual Simply DiVine event which is can’t-miss.
I’m a huge fan of The Supremes, have seen Miss Ross in concert many times but never Miss Wilson. I got to chat with Mary earlier this year been helping promote a year-long celebration marking the 50th anniversary of Motown Records, the Detroit label founded by Berry Gordy that spawned not only The Supremes, but such acts as The Temptations, The Four Tops, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, Stevie Wonder, Mary Wells and The Jackson Five.
“It’s also the 50th anniversary of The Supremes – or the Primettes as we were originally called,” Mary pointed out. “Who knew it would last so long? That’s what’s so phenomenal about the Motown sound – it was the sound of young America, the sound of the time.”
“Holland-Dozier-Holland did such a good job of producing us and picking the right songs. I still sing them every night (in concert). Songs like Reflections and Love Child, they are all wonderful lyrics that are lasting and still have special meaning.”
Mary, as you know, was one of the original Supremes along with Ross and Florence Ballard. The legendary singing group was formed while the girls were in junior high school (called the Primettes) and continued even after Florence left (she was successfully replaced by Cindy Birdsong) and Diana left. Before breaking up in 1977, Mary had been a member of the gorup for nearly 20 years.
“I didn’t want it to end,” she said. “My dreams were still coming true but it was just one of those things. After awhile, I realized what was the magic of the Supremes and what was the magic of Motown wasn’t there anymore.”
Nine years after the group split up for good, Mary published the best-selling memoir Dreamgirl: My Life as a Supreme which was very revealing about Motown and the 60s – warts and all. Diana Ross and others did not come off so good in the book at times.
“I think a lot of people were (upset),” she said of reaction to the book. “They felt I was betraying them and telling things I shouldn’t be telling. I said, ‘Wait a minute. It’s better I write the truth and write it with love. We were all veyr young and people make mistakes. I kept diaries and wanted to say what happened but say it with love.”
The hit movie musical Dreamgirls, loosely based on the story of The Supremes, resulted in continued heightened interest in The Supremes and fans are desperate for a reunion of Ross, Wilson and Birdsong who have not been onstage together in 25 years. There were plans for a reunion tour called Return to Love in the summer of 2000 but negotiations famously fell apart over money.
Mary told me she is still open to a reunion: “I’ve always been open to it – it just has to be negotiated again. It’s if Diane is open to it, if she’s ready. I sincereley hope she is.”
Mary and Diane (as she still calls Ross), famously fell out after the publication of Wilson’s 1986 book which led off with an incident at the 25th Motown Anniversary show and, according to Wilson and witnesses, Ross pushed her former singing partner on stage.
But relations seemed to have thawed a bit and Wilson says: “There’s a card here and there and she gave me a shout-out at the BET (Awards). Even if there’s never a (reunion) tour, I still believe we are friends and sisters and will one day sit down and have Starbucks.”
Below is a rare video of Mary singing the lead during a perfomance with Diana Ross nd Cindy Birdsong: