by Jeff Meier (FB: Jeff.Meier.90)
Today at Good Black News, we pay tribute to the musical legacy of Mary Wilson, who died Monday night at the age of 76 at her home in Las Vegas.
Wilson was the heart and soul of The Supremes, perhaps the world’s most successful girl group ever, and the archetype for Destiny’s Child, TLC, En Vogue and all the other subsequent soulful girl groups who’ve hit the charts in the decades since the Detroit trio ruled over the charts in the 1960s.
More than 50 years after their last #1, The Supremes still rank second only to The Beatles in garnering the most chart-toppers of any group – With a dozen #1 pop hits in the United States.
Check out Mary and The Supremes in our playlist entitled “Mary Wilson of The Supremes – Come and Get These Memories“:
If Florence Ballard was the Supremes soulful & brassy blues mama and Diana Ross its demure pop ingenue, the late Mary Wilson was the group’s sultry glamour gal. The three of them together evoke the memories of a time when a group of persistent girls from the local neighborhood high school could encounter the right producer and launch themselves into a whirlwind of global superstardom.
In the process, The Supremes would help change the world’s perception of Blackness. Diana, Florence and Mary were the epitome of Berry Gordy‘s grand Motown crossover experiment – they weren’t just stars of the soul chart, but rather they were ‘the sound of young America’.
They toured Japan and Europe, played Las Vegas and the Copacabana nightclub – venues previously reserved for mostly older white artists.
Their classy choreography and gorgeous gowns belied their youthful age. And, back in an era when few Black celebrities were seen with frequency on TV, neighborhoods of Black families from coast to coast were abuzz with pride every time the trio appeared on the popular Ed Sullivan Show in front of the whole nation.
By now, most everyone knows the story of The Supremes. Ballard left the group amid scandal in the mid-1960s (to be replaced by Cindy Birdsong). Ross left in 1970 to pursue a solo career that would make her arguably the biggest Black female star of her era.
But Mary Wilson stayed with the group until the very end, through a litany of other member changes, serving as the steadfast backup to two subsequent lead singers. Following the group’s demise, she performed solo concerts all over the world, wrote two best-selling books about her years with The Supremes and even participated in ‘Dancing With the Stars’.
But all the while, she was determined to preserve the legacy of The Supremes, including battling in court to stop unaffiliated groups from touring under the group’s name. To the end she was almost always identified as ‘Mary Wilson of The Supremes.’
Over the course of 15 years of Supremes recordings, Wilson didn’t get to sing lead often. But we’ve gathered those all those official lead/co-lead vocals here, along with a couple solo tracks and some rare ‘from-the-vaults’ tunes released in more recent years.
Look for nice renditions of “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You“ (which frequently served as her solo on tour dates), “Our Day Will Come” and her version of the Martha & the Vandellas hit “Come and Get These Memories” from the Diana years.
By the ’70s, Mary’s veteran status was rewarded with a few more lead vocals, including a shared spotlight on singles like “Floy Joy,” “Automatically Sunshine,” and ‘Touch” as well as a heartfelt vocal on Jimmy Webb‘s standard “I Keep It Hid” and a whispery, plaintive adaptation of the Spinners/Phyllis Hyman number “I Don’t Want To Lose You.”
Following an initial half dozen Wilson-lead or co-lead tracks, we’ve taken the opportunity on our playlist to dive wholeheartedly into the chronological history of the entire span of The Supremes – the Diana Ross, Jean Terrell and Scherrie Payne years all in one – because ALL those years were the Mary Wilson years.
Along with all Mary’s lead vocals, we’ve included all the Motown Supremes singles on which Mary actually sang back-up (including the group’s singles with The Temptations and The Four Tops).
Interestingly, in the late ’60s, there were multiple Supremes hits recorded by Ross with Motown’s house back-up singers taking on the role of The Supremes – including “Love Child,””Forever Came Today,” “I’m Livin’ in Shame” and the group’s final #1 “Someday We’ll Be Together”.
Yes, ironically, on their iconic song about togetherness, the Supremes were not actually together (Mary and Cindy did still appear on the album covers, and of course, sang back-up on the songs during live concerts).
We’ve not included those Wilson-less singles here – although we have included later “Love Child” and “Someday We’ll Be Together” live renditions recorded from the group’s final January 1970 concert, where Mary and Cindy Birdsong did sing the background vocals on the songs they never had recorded in studio.
After the chronological rundown of Supremes singles, we’ve concluded our playlist with the rest of Wilson’s lead vocals on album tracks from the ’70s Supremes albums.
By then, The Supremes rule over the pop charts was a memory – and the group was no longer being paired with Motown’s hottest producers.
But Mary’s passionate vocals help to elevate otherwise ordinary ballads into something worth listening to. We hope you’ll check out our playlist and ‘come and get these memories’ of Mary Wilson, another legend gone too soon. Someday, we’ll be together.
Original article source: https://goodblacknews.org/2021/02/10/music-come-and-get-these-memories-the-supreme-mary-wilson-playlist-listen/ | Article may or may not reflect the views of KLEK 102.5 FM or The Voice of Arkansas Minority Advocacy Council