Those of you who know me, know what a tremendous Supremes fan I am. So, you can imagine my sadness at the recent passing of Mary Wilson, one of the groups founding members. Mary was such an extraordinary woman. In addition to that delicious smoky alto of hers putting feeling and power into so much music, she contributed tremendously to making the world a better place. She and her fellow Supremes helped break down racial barriers in the 1960s and ’70s, she gave herself generously to help others through her work to protect the rights of recording artists, drew on her own experience as an abused spouse to encourage and support others in the same situation, helped at-risk young people here and abroad, acted as good will ambassador for the U.S., and supported the efforts of the Humpty-Dumpty Institute against the use of landmines.
Mary also helped so many people around her on a personal level to believe in themselves and follow their dreams to become the people they wanted to be. She loved her children and grandchild. And she was wonderful with her fans, never treating them as beneath her. She welcomed everyone with sincerity, graciousness, and humor. You knew she was just as happy to see you as you were to meet her. She had a sense of humor about herself and could tease in a way that was fun. And she loved life, especially these last years, still singing and performing to delighted audiences, competing on on Dancing with the Stars, publishing a delightful book on the Supremes’ magnificant gowns and the stories behind them, starting her own YouTube channel, and even announcing the cd re-release of her solo album with new and never before released material. We’ll miss her joy and warmth, but we’ll carry her in our hearts for all the love she gave us. I think these lines from “Nature Boy” sum up her bond with us perfectly: “The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and to be loved in return.”
Here’s Mary sharing her philosophy of life with us in a fairly recent release: “Life’s Been Good to Me.”
Dancing with the Stars Photo: https://dancingwiththestars.fandom.com/wiki/Mary_Wilson
Other Photos shared from web sites Mary Wilson of the Supremes: New Ways but Love Stays; Motown 1970: Not Just Another Record Company; Seventies Supremes,
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On Sunday, September 30, Yang and I had the exciting pleasure of seeing a Motown double feature: Martha Reeves and Mary Wilson at the Barnstable Performing Arts Center. What a nice way to start the Fall season. Martha and the Vandellas kicked off the first half of the show, with Martha’s sisters Delphine and Lois as her Vandellas. Lois, as Motown friends will remember, was one of the Vandellas from 1968 until the group disbanded and Martha went solo. Martha has energy to spare and a feisty sense of humor, so we all got down and enjoyed her group’s review of old favorites and renditions of gospel and other soul tunes. The lady can put on a show, as can her Vandellas. We weren’t close enough to the stage to get any good shots of the performance, so my good friend Tom Ingrassia allowed me to borrow a few of the photos that he took. The ones of Mary Wilson on stage also come from Tom.
Mary Wilson was our rockin’ lady for the second half of the program. Mary does two types of shows: Up Close and Personal, which is a perfection of blues, jazz, and pop given a bluesy, jazzy twist (check my earlier blog) and her straight out, soulful rockin’ the night away. We had the latter this afternoon. Mary ripped through some rock standards like “Satisfaction” and “Brown Sugar,” gave soulful stylings to Supremes’ hits, and delivered with powerful feeling on “And I Am Telling You” and “Imagine,” to name a few. Then there was the playful medley of Supremes’ hits where audience members had the chance to become honorary Supremes and back up Mary – with all the right moves for the songs. Unfortunately, I was boxed into my seat and couldn’t make it up to the stage, but my friend Barbara Ingrassia did and out-Cindied, out-Maryed, and out-Floed everyone. Her husband Tom Ingrassia has a YouTube video from Mary’s Laconia concert where we can see our Barbara get down. In fact Mary gestures a “J’Accuse” to Barb in “Stop! In the Name of Love” when Mary sings that she sees her boyfriend “walk down the street/Knowing [his] other love [he]’ll meet”! Click here for a link to the video of that exciting moment! Barb is rockin’ the turquoise shawl!
I just have to say that Mary Wilson has extraordinary vocal power and control. She puts great feeling into her singing, deftly wielding her voice to move from softness to strength as the emotions shift in her song. Her abilities have only improved over the years.
Martha was not there to meet after the show. However,Mary was there to greet her fans. So I gladly joined the line for an autograph and a quick chat. I have to say that Mary is most gracious and fun! She is so lively and genuinely happy to chat with you. She takes a real interest in what people have to say and her friendliness is infectious. She also clearly has loads of old friends who have either worked with her or are fans who have become friends through the years -as you can get a hint from the pictures below.
I also had my turn to shake Mary’s hand and then let her know how much I enjoyed her concert. I can’t remember exactly what we talked about, but looks as if we made each other chuckle. Then there was the opportunity for our shot posed together. Mr. Yang, we’re ready for our close up!
Image of Lois Reeves from: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Lois-Reeves
Last night, Yang and I had the magnificent thrill of seeing Mary Wilson perform her “Up Close and Personal” concert at Scullers Jazz Club. What a treat! Some time back, I was lucky enough to have heard from my friend Tom Ingrassia that Mary would be at Scullers, so Yang and immediately invested in tickets. I put on my best mini-diva outfit – I know I’m not in Mary’s league – and off we went for the evening. Wouldn’t you know that our table was right next to Tom and Barbara Ingrassia’s! We also met their friends Jay and Dennis – two nice guys! I’m just sorry we never got to take a picture with Tom and Barbara.
The concert was WONDERFUL! Mary has the perfect voice for dreamy ballads and swing and Latin styles, with her dark velvet vocals. Her combo backed her beautifully. She’s funny and warm and absolutely gorgeous! Not that I’m prejudiced. She did a soulful “Stormy Weather” and a version of “Both Sides Now” that is so thoughtful and feeling. She can also belt out songs with surging vibrancy or move you with soulful tenderness. Can you guess that I’m a big fan of Mary Wilson? Once you hear her perform, you’ll know why. I loved her in the Supremes, but now . . . sigh . . . The girl has arrived! I think it would be divine if she ever recorded an entire album of standards as Linda Ronstadt or Freda Payne or Sheena Easton have successfully done. Wouldn’t you love to hear what she could do with the soul-aching “I’ve Got It Bad and That Ain’t Good” and “It Never Entered My Mind” or the playful “Your Red Wagon”?
My friend Tom was kind enough to tip me off ahead of time to dash out right away to get in line for autographs. Tom was managing merchandise for Mary, but we had a chance to enthuse about the performance before Mme. Wilson joined us. Tom is an expert on all things Motown, has written intelligent and useful self-help books (as well as giving talks in both areas), and has a great radio program on WCUW 91.3FM, Motown Jukebox (Wednesday mornings). Check out his web site. Somehow, we didn’t get any pictures of Barbara, though!