Supremes co-founder Mary Wilson dies aged 76

The highly successful music group of three Black women rose to fame in the 1960s as the United States grappled with segregation and civil rights and helped change the way many thought about race.

Wilson died on Monday night at her home in Las Vegas and the cause was not immediately clear, said publicist Jay Schwartz.

Wilson, Diana Ross and Florence Ballard made up the first successful configuration of The Supremes, originally called The Primettes. Ballard was replaced by Cindy Birdsong in 1967, and Wilson stayed with The Supremes until it was officially disbanded by the US record label Motown in 1977. Wilson then pursued a solo career.

Of the early days of performing in the 1950s and 60s, “it was rough”, Wilson said in a June 2020 interview with Stars in the House, a live-streamed series benefiting US actors. “I’m Black. I remember having to drink out of the water fountains where it said ‘for coloured people’ and then there were ones ‘for white people’. We toured the South and we couldn’t stay at any of the hotels or motels.”

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