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Wednesday, March 6, 2013


Mary Wilson (born March 6, 1944) is an American vocalist, best known as a founding member of the popular sixties group The Supremes. Wilson remained as member of the group following the departures of group mates Diana Ross and Florence Ballard until the group disbanded in 1977. Wilson has since released two solo albums and released two autobiographies, Dreamgirl: My Life As a Supreme and Supreme Faith: Someday We'll Be Together, both books later released as an updated combination. Wilson has since carried on her career as a concert performer, musical activist and organizer of various museum displays of the Supremes' famed costumes. Wilson was inducted alongside Ross and Ballard as member of the Supremes to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988. Mary Wilson was the first child born to Sam and Johnnie Mae Wilson, a domestic worker who later became a housewife, in Greenville, Mississippi. The Wilsons later had a son, Roosevelt, and a daughter, Catherine, who is known as "Cat". As a baby, Mary moved first to St. Louis and then to Chicago before settling with her aunt and uncle, Ivory ("I.V.") and John L. Pippin, in Detroit. At the age of six, she was returned to the custody of Johnnie Mae, who had spent time in Mississippi. This was a confusing time for Mary, as she had been led to believe that Ivory and John L. were her parents. By the age of twelve, Mary and her family had settled at Detroit's Brewster-Douglass Housing Projects. In 1958, Mary Wilson met Florence Ballard while both attended junior high school. They quickly became close friends with a mutual interest in music. When Milton Jenkins, manager of male vocal group The Primes, decided to form a female spin-off group called The Primettes, he recruited Ballard, who recruited Wilson. Wilson then recruited a new friend of hers, Diane Ross, and Jenkins added Betty McGlown to complete the lineup. By 1961, The Primettes had signed to Motown Records, replaced McGlown with Barbara Martin, and changed their name to The Supremes; In 1962, a pregnant Martin quit the group, reducing them to a trio. The Supremes went two years without a Top 40 hit, finally scoring with "When the Lovelight Starts Shining Through His Eyes" in 1963 which began a long streak of Holland–Dozier–Holland-penned Top 10 hits, including ten US #1 hits, beginning with "Where Did Our Love Go". In 1967, after three years of phenomenal success, Motown CEO Berry Gordy changed the name of the group to Diana Ross & the Supremes and after a period of tension, Florence Ballard was removed from the Supremes in July 1967 and Gordy chose Cindy Birdsong to take her place. Although hits were less frequent during this time period, Diana Ross and the Supremes enjoyed their two biggest-selling hits in 1968 ("Love Child") and 1969 ("Someday We'll Be Together"), respectively. Ross gave her final performance with group on January 14, 1970 at the Frontier Hotel in Las Vegas. At the final performance, the replacement for Diana Ross, Jean Terrell, was introduced. According to Wilson, after this performance, Berry Gordy wanted to replace Terrell with Syreeta Wright. Wilson refused, leading to Gordy stating that he was washing his hands of the group thereafter. This claim is also made by Mark Ribowsky. The group was soon re-christened "The Supremes". The "New Supremes";– Wilson, Terrell, and Birdsong;– continued their hit-making process from 1970 through 1972 with hits like "Up the Ladder to the Roof", "Stoned Love", "River Deep – Mountain High" (with the Four Tops), "Nathan Jones", and "Floy Joy". Wilson began sharing leads with Terrell on several of the singles, including "Touch", "Floy Joy", and "Automatically Sunshine". In 1994, The Supremes were recognized with a star on Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7060 Hollywood Blvd. Cindy Birdsong temporarily left the group in April 1972 to start a family and was replaced by singer Lynda Laurence, formerly of Stevie Wonder's Wonderlove group. This collaboration did not last long. After the Stevie Wonder-produced "Bad Weather" failed to ignite much interest in 1973, both Terrell and Laurence departed from the group. Wilson enlisted Scherrie Payne, Freda Payne's younger sister, and welcomed back Cindy Birdsong to carry on the group. It took nearly two years for Motown to produce new recording contracts for the Supremes, during which time the group concentrated on live performances, and Wilson married Dominican businessman Pedro Ferrer. Wilson took charge of the Supremes, assisting her husband in managing, and sharing lead vocal duties with Payne in the group. This lineup continued on until 1976, when Birdsong was replaced by Susaye Greene, also a former Wonderlove member. With Greene, the Supremes recorded two disco-flavored albums with some success, including the release of their final top forty hit "I'm Gonna Let My Heart Do the Walking" which also ranked number 1 on the dance charts. By the start of 1977, Wilson had finally decided to leave The Supremes and start her solo singing career, after the three of them could not agree on the Supremes' musical direction, leaving Payne and Greene to try - unsuccessfully - to find a replacement for her. Her "farewell" performance with the group in its last line-up occurred on Sunday, June 12 of that year at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in London, England. In 1979, Wilson became involved in a protracted legal battle with Motown over their management of the Supremes. After an out-of-court settlement, Motown signed Wilson to the label on a solo recording contract. Marvin Gaye was scheduled to produce Wilson's first album. However, Gaye was unable to produce the album because he preoccupied with his divorce from Berry Gordy's elder sister Anna Gordy, leaving the material to be produced by Hal Davis. In August 1979, Wilson's debut solo album entiltled Mary Wilson, was released. The album took Wilson's solo work further into a mixture of R&B and disco. The album's lead single, "Red Hot", peaked at #95 on the Billboard R&B singles chart. An extended version of "Red Hot" made available as a 12-inch single earned the song a #85 spot on the disco charts in October 1979. In March 1980, Wilson released the album's second single, "Pick Up the Pieces". In mid-1980, Wilson had begun working on her second album for Motown with English record producer Gus Dudgeon, who had produced the tracks "Love Talk", "Save Me", "You Danced My Heart Around the Stars" and "Green River" for the record. However, Wilson was later released from her contract with Motown. Also in the mid-1980s, Wilson began to concentrate on musical theater, starring in various productions throughout a 20-year period, including "Beehive", "Dancing in the Streets", "Leader of the Pack", "Mother Hubbard, Mother Hubbard", "Grandma Sylvia's Funeral", "Sister Idella's Soul Shack" "Sophisticated Ladies", "The Vagina Monologues" and "Supreme Soul". In 1981, Wilson signed with Nightmare Records,a label that aimed to record new material with former Motown artists, she recorded several singles for the label, none of them reached chart status in the US. In 1984, after a successful reunion of The Temptations, Wilson was approached by Motown to reform the Supremes with Scherrie Payne and Cindy Birdsong, but after careful consideration and advice from Berry Gordy, Wilson declined. In 1986, Wilson released her first heavily publicized autobiography, "Dreamgirl: My Life as a Supreme" concentrating on the sixties era of the original Supremes lineup. The book was a huge success but was also controversial in its description of the relationship between members of the group. Wilson racked up a long list of television appearances during this period on talk shows, sitcom guest spots and television specials. Wilson also became a regular solo performer at this time in top casinos and resorts sharing billing with comedians such as Jay Leno and Joan Rivers,. In 1987, Wilson recorded the songs, "Sleeping in Separate Rooms", "Stronger in a Broken Part" and "The One I Love" for Atlantic Records. Wilson had expected to have a record deal with the label, but the deal was cancelled and the songs remain unreleased. In 1989, Nightmare Records became Motorcity Records. Although Wilson never recorded a full album for the label, she recorded a cover version of "Oooh Child". In 1990, she released a follow-up best-selling book called "Supreme Faith: Someday We'll Be Together", which followed the group and her life through the seventies. Her concert work also increased in the US, although she had more legal troubles with Motown over ownership of the name "Supremes" which she used to identify herself with for tour work. Wilson initiated a court case against Kaaren Ragland, who served as a back-up singer for Wilson for several years, to prevent Ragland from calling a group she formed "The Sounds of the Supremes," but the court found in Ragland's favor.". In 1991, Wilson left Motorcity, a year before it went out of business. She then signed with the independent record label, CEO Records, and began recording her second solo album. In 1992, Wilson released a CD Walk the Line for CEO Records. It featured her cover of the Five Stairsteps song,"Ooh Child", which was originally released under Nightmare Records. The album also featured a cover of the Jennifer Holliday classic, I Am Changing. The album's lead single,"One Night With You", was followed by "Walk the Line", which was the title track to the album. CEO Records filed for bankruptcy protection the day after releasing this work, causing the album to fall out of place on the charts. The relatively few copies made available quickly sold out. Wilson claimed she had no knowledge of the label's financial problems and was deceived into signing with them for the release. Despite this setback, Wilson continued an international concert career. In 1995, Wilson released the song "U" by the Contract Recording Company which became a chart hit in the UK and in 1996, Wilson's song, "Turn Around", was released on Da Bridge Records, although Wilson never had a full recording contract with either of the labels. In 2000, an updated version of Wilson's two autobiographies was released as a single combined book. It was released under the title,"Dreamgirl & Supreme Faith: My Life as a Supreme". Also in 2000, Duryea Entertainment released a CD by Wilson entitled,I Am Changing, although it was not considered an official studio album of Wilson's. In late 1999, Diana Ross arranged a Supremes reunion tour scheduled to begin in the summer of 2000. Both Ross and Wilson publicly acknowledged that Wilson was not contacted about the tour until late December 1999. Offered two million dollars and no artistic control, Wilson counter-offered to join the tour for five million dollars, eventually settling for a figure of four million. Reports as to why vary between the two singers, but Ross decided to do the tour with two singers who had joined The Supremes after Ross had left the group, Lynda Laurence and Scherrie Payne. Intense media scrutiny of the disagreement between Wilson and Ross and the tour itself ensued, and many fans of the original Supremes felt that the tour could not rightly be described as a "reunion". The Return to Love Tour was canceled after fulfilling less than half of its scheduled dates. In 2001, Wilson starred in the national tour of the 1985 Best Musical Tony Award nominee "'Leader of The Pack — The Ellie Greenwich Story. In 2002, she was featured in a documentary film on American soul music, Only the Strong Survive, and was appointed by Secretary of State Colin Powell as a Culture-Connect Ambassador for the U.S. State Department, appearing at international events arranged by that agency. Motown's 45th anniversary show in 2003 featured Wilson and Birdsong with Kelly Rowland of Destiny's Child subbing for Ross, who chose not to appear. In 2006, Wilson released a DVD, Mary Wilson Live at the Sands, which features many of the Supremes hits and much of her newer material. The DVD was distributed by Universal Music Group, the now-parent company of Motown Records. Also in 2006, Wilson underwent angioplasty surgery after complaining of chest pains; she recovered quickly and resumed her engagements. The 2007 release of the film Dreamgirls, a work loosely based on the real-life Supremes, found Wilson sharing several appearances with the film's stars. In December 2007, Wilson released a live CD of her jazz and standards act called Up Close: Live from San Francisco. In April 2008, the Australian singing group Human Nature released a CD with Wilson guest-starring in a rendition of "River Deep – Mountain High" with the group, a cover of the 1970 hit by the post-Ross Supremes and the Four Tops. In June 2010, Wilson released Mary Wilson: Live from San Francisco . . . Up Close, a limited edition live DVD of her "Up Close" show. In recent years, Wilson has made headlines for proposing a bill to ban impostor groups from performing under the names of 1950s and 1960s rock groups, including Motown groups such as The Marvelettes and The Supremes. The bill has now passed in 27 states. Wilson has also been touring and lecturing across the U.S., speaking to various groups nationwide. Her lecture series, “Dare to Dream”, focuses on reaching goals and triumph over adversity. Wilson's charity work includes the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, the American Cancer Society, St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital, the Easter Seals Foundation, UNICEF, The NAACP, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, the All-Star Network, and Figure Skaters of Harlem, a youth organization devoted to helping children towards entering the Olympics. Most recently, Wilson became the Mine Action spokesperson for the Humpty Dumpty Institute, a NYC-based non-profit organization forging innovative[citation needed] public-private partnerships designed to help solve specific international problems. In April 2008, Wilson made a special appearance on 20/20 to participate in a social experiment involving pedestrians reacting to a young woman (Ambre Anderson) singing "Stop! In the Name of Love" with intentional amateurishness. Wilson approached the woman and gave her constructive criticism towards her style in contrast to the pedestrians whose reactions were positive yet dishonest. On March 5, 2009, she made a special appearance on The Paul O'Grady Show which ended in a special performance with her, Paul O'Grady and Graham Norton. Wilson has also been involved with a touring exhibition of the Supremes' former stage wear, which has been on exhibit at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, USA, and on May 12, 2008 commenced its European tour, starting at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Over 50 sets of gowns are shown in rotation, starting with early informal wear from the early 1960s, and including famous gowns worn on television specials and nightclub appearances by the group in the 1960s and 1970s.   If you support live Blues acts, up and coming Blues talents and want to learn more about Blues news and Fathers of the Blues, ”LIKE” ---Bman’s Blues Report--- Facebook Page! 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