On 28 August 1979, Mary Wilson made her debut as a solo performer after close to two decades as the glue holding together the Supremes, the most successful US girl group ever. Midway through her set at New York New York, she announced: “Before we go any further, I would like to sing a medley of my greatest hits.” Wilson recalled the moment in her second volume of autobiography, Supreme Faith:
As the band played the opening chords to ‘Come See About Me’ I sang only my background parts: “Boo hoo . . . for you . . . to tears . . . the fears . . . hey, hey, hey, hey . . . hey, hey, hey, hey . . . come see about me.”. Everyone cracked up, then I did the same for “The Happening” and “Reflections”.
Though played for comedy, the moment was a tacit acknowledgement that it wasn’t Mary’s voice that first sprang to mind when people thought of the Supremes. But that doesn’t mean she didn’t often step up, especially during the group’s post-Diana-Ross 1970s career. As the world pays tribute to Mary following her untimely death, here are six tracks from her Supremes tenure that highlight her vocals (and also some fantastic era fashions).
Can’t Take My Eyes Off You (1969)
This sleek and sensual track saw vocal duties shared by Mary Wilson and Jean Terrell, and was the first-ever Supremes single to feature Wilson as a lead. Wilson signed off her mail with the salutation “Touch” for years afterwards.
He’s My Man (1975)
Floy Joy (1971)
Automatically Sunshine (1971)
You Are The Heart Of Me (1976)
The one that got away. Infamously, in the early 1980s, Mary turned down the chance to record ‘Holiday’. It went on to become the track that launched Madonna’s career. Honestly, it’s hard to imagine this working as well as a Mary Wilson number, but it would be amazing to hear a demo.