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Mary Wilson

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Information about Mary Wilson

Profile image of Mary Wilson

Profession

Category:
MusicMakers
Occupation(s):
Singer

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blues, Pastel, Red
Favorite Food:
Japanese
Favorite Time of Year:
Spring, Chirstmas
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Home
Favorite Quote:
Love

Birthplace

Born:
3/6/1944
Birth Location:
Greenville, Mississippi

Profession

Category:
MusicMakers
Occupation(s):
Singer

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blues, Pastel, Red
Favorite Food:
Japanese
Favorite Time of Year:
Spring, Chirstmas
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Home
Favorite Quote:
Love

Birthplace

Born:
3/6/1944
Birth Location:
Greenville
See how Mary Wilson is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Motown recording artist Mary Wilson was born in Greenville, Mississippi to Sam Wilson, a butcher, and Johnnie Mae Wilson, a homemaker, on March 6, 1944. At age three, Wilson’s parents sent her to live in Detroit, Michigan with her aunt, I.V. Pippin, and uncle, John L. Pippin. In 1952, Wilson moved to Detroit’s Brewster-Douglass Housing Projects. She was bused from the projects to Algers elementary school in 1956 when integration of public schools began. Wilson went on to graduate from Northeastern high school in 1962.

In 1959, Wilson joined a local singing group, Primettes, which also included Florence Ballard, Diana Ross and Betty McGlown. The Primettes performed at the 1960 Detroit-Windsor Freedom Festival amateur talent contest and won first place. In 1961, the group, which now included Barbara Martin, signed with Motown Records and changed their name to the Supremes. After Martin left the group in 1962 the Supremes permanently became a trio and traveled that year with “The Motortown Revue,” a showcase of Motown artists including the Temptations, Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye.

In 1963, the Supremes teamed up with writer-producers Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Eddie Holland (HDH). A few of their records received national airplay. Having recorded the Supremes, who had shared the lead singing for three years without a hit record, Gordy rearranged the group with Wilson and Ballard as background singers. The Supremes scored their first hit in 1963 with the song, “When the Lovelight Starts Shining Through His Eyes.” The group reached #1 on U.S. pop charts for the first time in 1964 with the hit record and single, Where Did Our Love Go.

In 1964, the Supremes became one of the first Motown acts to perform outside of the United States when they played at the Clay House Inn in Bermuda. The Supremes also began European tours starting with Great Britain and later toured elsewhere, including the Far East. Where Did Our Love Go was followed by four consecutive singles that reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts: “Baby Love,” which was also a #1 hit in the UK; “Come See About Me”; “Stop! In the Name of Love”; and “Back in My Arms Again.” “Baby Love” was nominated for the 1965 Grammy Award for Best R&B Song.

The Supremes became the first black pop group of the sixties to play New York City’s Copacabana, and the first pop group to play New York’s Philharmonic Hall in Lincoln Center in 1965. Wilson began a solo career after the group disbanded in 1977. As a solo performer, Wilson toured the world, recorded, acted on stage and television, and participated in celebrity charity events. Wilson wrote about her career with Motown and the Supremes in Dreamgirls: My Life as a Supreme (1986) and Supreme Faith: Someday We’ll Be Together (1990).

The Supremes received the NAACP Image Award for Best Female Group in 1972, and they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988. Wilson was honored in 1973 with a Mary Wilson Day in Detroit.

Mary Wilson Was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on November 19, 2013.

See how Mary Wilson is related to other HistoryMakers
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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Mary Wilson's interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Mary Wilson lists her favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Mary Wilson describes her father's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Mary Wilson describes her mother's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Mary Wilson remembers learning that she was adopted
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Mary Wilson describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Mary Wilson talk about her adoptive parents
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Mary Wilson remembers moving into her birth mother's household
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Mary Wilson lists her siblings
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Mary Wilson describes her household
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Mary Wilson recalls her start as a choir singer
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Mary Wilson remembers Carolyn Franklin and the Franklin family
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Mary Wilson talks about the music scene in Detroit, Michigan
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Mary Wilson remembers the popularity of teenage doo wop groups
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Mary Wilson describes the formation of The Primettes
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Mary Wilson remembers The Primettes' early performances
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Mary Wilson talks about her role in The Primettes
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Mary Wilson remembers Milton Jenkins
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Mary Wilson talks about Northeastern High School in Detroit, Michigan
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Mary Wilson remembers auditioning for Motown Records
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Mary Wilson talks about signing with Lu Pine Records and Motown Records
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Mary Wilson remembers hanging out at Motown Records
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Mary Wilson talks about the distribution of The Primettes' first record
  • Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Mary Wilson remembers Mary Wells
  • Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Mary Wilson describes the structure of Motown Records
  • Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Mary Wilson remembers the creativity and talent at Motown Records
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Mary Wilson explains the importance of recording contract negotiations
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Mary Wilson talks about her decision to speak out about Motown Records' unfair contracts
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Mary Wilson remembers her parents' emphasis on college education
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Mary Wilson remembers touring with the 'Motortown Revue'
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Mary Wilson remembers the chaperones for the 'Motortown Revue'
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Mary Wilson remembers touring with Dick Clark's Caravan of Stars, pt. 1
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Mary Wilson remembers touring with Dick Clark's Caravan of Stars, pt. 2
  • Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Mary Wilson talks about her experiences of integration in Dick Clark's Caravan of Stars
  • Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Mary Wilson remembers working with Holland-Dozier-Holland
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Mary Wilson talks about the songwriting process at Motown Records
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Mary Wilson describes the voices and personalities of The Supremes
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Mary Wilson describes the relationships with other Motown artists
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Mary Wilson remembers The Supremes' first tour of the United Kingdom
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Mary Wilson remembers Maxine Powell
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Mary Wilson talks about the early success of The Supremes
  • Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Mary Wilson remembers Cholly Atkins
  • Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Mary Wilson talks about The Supremes' responses to their success
  • Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Mary Wilson remembers Florence Ballard
  • Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Mary Wilson talks about the group dynamic of The Supremes
  • Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Mary Wilson talks about the struggles of The Supremes
  • Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Mary Wilson talks about Florence Ballard' departure from The Supremes
  • Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Mary Wilson talks about her favorite songs in The Supremes' repertoire
  • Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Mary Wilson remembers The Supremes' opening night at the Copacabana in New York City
  • Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Mary Wilson remembers the addition of Cindy Birdsong to The Supremes
  • Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Mary Wilson remembers the addition of Cindy Birdsong and Jean Terrell to The Supremes
  • Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Mary Wilson talk about her work life balance during a transitional period with The Supremes
  • Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Mary Wilson talks about losing friendships and support systems
  • Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Mary Wilson recalls The Supremes' final performance
  • Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Mary Wilson remembers the breakup of The Supremes, pt. 1
  • Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Mary Wilson talks about her marriage
  • Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Mary Wilson remembers the breakup of The Supremes, pt. 2
  • Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Mary Wilson remembers Florence Ballard's funeral
  • Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Mary Wilson talks about the aftermath of Florence Ballard's death
  • Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Mary Wilson talks about the legal battle with Motown Records over ownership of The Supremes name
  • Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Mary Wilson talks about focusing on her career after The Supremes disbanded
  • Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Mary Wilson remembers her divorce
  • Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Mary Wilson talks about 'Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever'
  • Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Mary Wilson talks about the release of her autobiographies
  • Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Mary Wilson recalls the attempts to organize a reunion tour for The Supremes
  • Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Mary Wilson remembers her son's death
  • Tape: 8 Story: 9 - Mary Wilson reflects upon her life
  • Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Mary Wilson talks about her plans for the future
  • Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Mary Wilson reflects upon her life
  • Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Mary Wilson reflects upon the legacy of The Supremes
  • Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Mary Wilson describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community
  • Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Mary Wilson remembers the Christmas parties at Motown Records
  • Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Mary Wilson describes how she would like to be remembered