Mary Wilson dead: Mary Wilson, founding member of The Supremes, dies at 76

Mary Wilson dead: Mary Wilson, founding member of The Supremes, dies at 76

Mary Wilson, a founding member of The Supremes, died Monday at her home in Las Vegas, her publicist said. She was 76.

No cause of death was provided by her friend and publicist Jay Schwartz.

Wilson was an original member of the iconic Motown group known for a string of hits including "Stop! In the Name of Love" and "Back in My Arms Again."

Mary Wilson from The Supremes has died aged 76.

The Motown singer suddenly died on Monday night at her home in Las Vegas, her publicist confirmed.

Mary was best known for co-founding The Supremes at the age of just 15 alongside Diana Ross and Florence Ballard in Detroit.

She stayed with the Motown Records trio until its dissolution in 1977.

In a statement Motown label's founder Berry Gordy said Mary was: "A trailblazer, a diva and will be deeply missed."

He continued: "I was extremely shocked and saddened to hear of the passing of a major member of the Motown family, Mary Wilson of the Supremes.

In inducting The Supremes to the Rock Hall in 1988, Little Richard called them "the greatest" and said "there's never been anything like them."

After Ross left the group for a successful career as a solo artist and actress, Wilson continued with the Supremes and then embarked on a solo career of her own.

"She was quite a star in her own right and over the years continued to work hard to boost the legacy of the Supremes.

"Mary Wilson was extremely special to me."

Berry added: "The Supremes were always known as the 'sweethearts of Motown'.

"Mary, along with Diana Ross and Florence Ballard, came to Motown in the early 1960s.

"After an unprecedented string of No. 1 hits, television and nightclub bookings, they opened doors for themselves, the other Motown acts, and many, many others.

"I was always proud of Mary."

Just two days before her death, Mary uploaded a video to her YouTube channel to say she was planning to release new music.

She said she had been working with Universal Music on releasing solo material, including the unreleased album Red Hot, which she recorded in the 1970s.

Mary told her fans in the video: "Hopefully some of that will be out on my birthday, March 6."

She also promised to give interviews about The Supremes' experiences with segregation in honour of Black History Month.

The Supremes are known for their huge hits in the sixties, including Baby Love and Come See About Me.

Mary appeared on all 12 of The Supremes' number one hits from 1964 until 1969.

Diana Ross became known for her solo music, while Florence Ballard tragically died at the age of 32 in 1976.

Mary spoke about her difficult relationship with Ross in her book Dreamgirl: My Life As a Supreme.

She wrote: "She has done many things to hurt, humiliate, and upset me, but, strangely enough, I still love her and am proud of her."

Mary released two solo albums and toured with a solo act that combined cabaret with renditions of her old Supremes hits.

The popstar was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the group in 1988.

Speaking about her decision to go solo, Mary told Jet magazine in 1986: "I'm sure people will have their own opinions about that, but I really don't care.

"My main thing is that when I was in the group I maintained my position and I didn't step into Diane's position.

"I'm no longer in the group now. I have my own position to uphold and it's not in the background."

Mary married former Supremes manager Pedro Ferrer in 1974 and they divorced in 1981.

In 1994, the former couple's 14-year-old son Rafael was killed and Mary was injured when her Jeep flipped.

She is survived by her daughter Turkessa, her son Pedro Antonio Jr and six grandchildren.

Her cause of death has not yet been confirmed and her publicist said funeral services will be private because of COVID, but a memorial service will be held later in the year.

She was also an author who wrote several books, including her memoir, "Dreamgirls: My Life as a Supreme." Wilson was also named a U.S. cultural ambassador by the State Department in 2003.

Services will be private due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but a celebration of her life will take place later this year, Wilson's representatives said.

The family asked that friends and fans support the United Negro College Fund or the Humpty Dumpty Institute. The latter group helps in landmine clearance projects around the world. Wilson spoke out about landmines and was a spokesperson for the group.