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,
If you feel your rights have been infringed by the posting of any of these photos, please contact me and I will remove them. Photos posted for personal or educational reasons. No profit is derived from this post.
Maybe it was because I had the great pleasure of seeing Scherrie and Susaye of the Supremes with Joyce Vincent in Waltham this summer, but when I finally had a chance to work on a post and needed some enjoyable background music, I turned to Partners. This album is a 1979 joint effort by Scherrie Payne and Susaye Greene after Mary Wilson departed the Supremes in 1978. The ladies were originally planned to continue the Supremes with Joyce Vincent, but word is that the kibosh was put on the group continuing without an original member. As a result, we have this delightful and highly underappreciated production of Scherrie and Susaye (with Joyce in there on backup). This album should not be missed by anyone who is a fan of the ladies or loves good soulful and bluesy music. Significantly, Scherrie and Susaye wrote all the songs on the album, providing us with great dance tunes, lovely ballads, dreamy love songs, and playful exercises in vocal pleasure. You can’t help wondering what would have happened if Scherrie and Susaye had been allowed to write for the Supremes and Mary had stayed.
Anyway, I have some especial favorites. Susaye’s “Lovebug” is an impish delight with her vocally ranging from kittenish to tigerish, neatly assisted by Ray Charles as the “Lovebug,” himself. I find her “When the Day Comes every Evening” beautifully dreamy. I also love the exciting bounce of “In the Night,” “Leaving Me Was the Best Thing You’ve Ever Done” and “I Found Another Love.” Scherrie Payne’s “Another Life from Now” is powered by deep feeling and deft vocalizing that gives me chills, while breaking my heart at the message of lost love with hope for reunion only in another life from now: delicious melancholy. This is not to say that I don’t love the other songs, but these ones stick in my head the best. So, if you want your soul to make you bounce or groove or dream, this album is for you. Unfortunately, although it is now out on cd, it is exorbitantly expensive on Amazon. However, there are reasonably priced vinyl versions available on ebay. Click here.
Isn’t it wonderful that Scherrie and Susaye are back together – and touring and recording with Joyce? Go to their web site for more info.
Album cover: By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6969828
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 week or so, my good friend Tom Ingrassia (savant of all things Motown) posted on his Facebook feed that Scherrie and Susaye, former ladies of the Supremes (FLOS), who had united with Joyce Vincent, were going to be performing a free concert at the Waltham Summer Concert series. Being a Supremes devotee, I was primed for that concert! It was the perfect way for Yang and I to kick off our anniversary celebrations. Still, the monsoons of rain besetting New England this summer had us on tenterhooks. Would the outdoor concert be cancelled? No! It was moved to the high school field house, a modern and pleasant set up. We were on for a supreme night of entertainment!
Yang and I were delighted to find our friends Tom and Barbara almost immediately; and, after some fun chatting, we settled down for the opening act of a local band, the Reminisants [sic]. Then, after intermission our favorite ladies appeared looking glorious, glamorous, and elegant to let us in for a full hour and a half of high energy Motown magic. Scherrie, Susaye, and Joyce performed with vivacity and delight. They were having as a good a time as the rest of us in the audience, as we bounced and bopped along with them to Supremes’ hits and new songs. Their harmonies were impeccable and exhilarating; when each lady took the lead, her powerful voice carried the feeling and life of the song. It was especially fun that they did some of the hits by Dawn, the group that Joyce helped make famous. So good to hear her come out of the background. She has a strong and beautiful voice. I can’t stress enough how good these ladies sounded. Interestingly, as Susaye and Joyce were telling me later, when Mary Wilson left the Supremes, the group was supposed to continue with Joyce as a member. Isn’t it a pity that Motown hadn’t let us have a great two-for-one-split: solo Mary Wilson and Susaye, Scherrie, and Joyce continuing the Supremes. At least we have them together now! They haven’t lost a jot of their talent – or energy! See: in this picture, Scherrie and Susaye are moving so fast that they are going interdimensional!
Thanks to Eric Iverson and a suggestion from my friend Tom, Yang and I were also able to stay and meet all three ladies afterwards, along with other fans. What a treat! These women are so down to earth, gracious, and good-hearted! They appreciate their fans’ appreciation and were interested in us as people. When it came up that I write mysteries, Susaye and Joyce immediately wanted to find out how to get Bait and Switch. When Scherrie later found out, she wanted the same information. They took interest in another woman’s writing, as well. I was excited to hear more about their plans, including an upcoming concert tour in England and a possible album. Scherrie also shared about her play in production in L.A. (A Lady in Waiting) and the screenplays that she has written and is working on getting optioned. (Check out her interview on Tom Ingrassia’s radio show.) Maybe Sisters in Crime might be a good group to network those screenplays! I wish I could remember what I said to make her crack up here!
I’m also happy to say that I made some wonderful new friends amongst the other fans, discovering I had unexpected connections with the other folks who’d come back to “meet the Supremes.” Everyone there, audience members, Supremes, members of the Supremes organization, just had a warm, fun time. Yang and I appreciated that Scherrie was talking with him about speaking Chinese. By the way, she said, “I love you” in Chinese very well. I had quite a long chat, as well, with Joyce and Susaye about the group and writing. I was so touched later when Susaye Greene spontaneously gave me a big hug. I think we bonded over our creative tendencies, love of music, my incorporating Supremes music into teaching composition, and our enjoying the humor of My Big Fat Greek Wedding. I know I’m gushing, but it was just such a great experience. It’s something we have to appreciate in these times when so many people think it’s acceptable to be cruel.
If you get a chance to see Susaye, Scherrie, and Joyce perform, do it! They have energy and wonderful voices! Here’s a link to their web site so that you can keep up on what they are up to. Treat yourself! And thank you Joyce, Susaye, and Scherrie for sharing your talent and being good kids (as my Mom would say)! And special thanks to Eric Iverson for bringing these wodnerful ladies East and to my friend Tom Ingrassia for putting me wise to this whole experience. Listen to Tom’s radio program!
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!