Above: Barry Scott and Mary Wilson
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(CNN) Mary Wilson, a founding member of “The Supremes” has died at the age of 76, her publicist told CNN.
Wilson “passed away suddenly this evening,” according to a statement from her longtime friend and publicist, Jay Schwartz.
Reacting to her death, Motown label founder Berry Gordy said in a statement: “I was extremely shocked and saddened to hear of the passing of a major member of the Motown family, Mary Wilson of the Supremes… I was always proud of Mary. 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. She was a trailblazer, a diva and will be deeply missed.”
Wilson had shared a YouTube video announcing her intentions to work on new music just two days before her death. She had told her fans that she’d teamed up with Universal Music on some solo tracks, and had hoped they would be released on her birthday – 6 March.
The singer was at her home in Henderson, Nevada. She is survived by her daughter, son, several grandchildren, a sister and brother.
Services will be private due to Covid-19 restrictions and a celebration of Wilson’s life will take place later this year, her publicist said.
Wilson was a “trendsetter who broke down social, racial, and gender barriers,” Schwartz said in his statement.
She began her career in Detroit in 1959 as a singer in what was then called “The Primettes.” They went on to become “The Supremes,” Motown’s most successful group of the 1960s, with 12 number one singles including “Where Did Our Love Go,” “Baby Love,” and “Stop! In the name of Love.”
Their influence not only carries on in contemporary R&B, soul and pop, they also helped pave the way for mainstream success by Black artists across all genres,” the statement said.
In 2018, Billboard celebrated the 60th anniversary of Motown with a list of “The Hot 100’s Top Artists of All Time,” and listed The Supremes at number 16, according to the statement.
Wilson’s legacy went beyond singing, Schwartz noted. She became a bestselling author, motivational speaker, businesswoman, and US Cultural Ambassador, he said.
“Wilson used her fame and flair to promote a diversity of humanitarian efforts including ending hunger, raising HIV/AIDS awareness and encouraging world peace,” the publicist said.
Wilson was also instrumental in passing the Music Modernization Act (MMA) in 2018, which aimed to modernize copyright-related issues for new music and audio recordings in the face of new technology like digital streaming which did not protect music recorded before February 15, 1972, the statement said.