It is with great sadness that I report the passing of a seminal figure in soul music. Singer Mary Wilson, founding member of the Supremes, died at her Las Vegas home. She was 76. No cause of death has been revealed. Wilson a musical giant, and perhaps even greater as a citizen of the world. Formed by three teenage girls from Detroit’s Brewster Housing projects, the Supremes went on to become Motown Records’ biggest act of the 1960s and the most successful girl group of the era. Originally known as the Primettes, the group consisted of Diana Ross, Florence Ballard, Mary Wilson and Betty McGlown. McGlown was replaced by Barbara Martin, who left the group a trio by 1964. They formed in 1959 and soon shared the dream of many Detroiters of being signed to the upstart label Motown. Upon their high school graduation their dream came true. Unfortunately, being signed to a successful label didn’t result in immediate success. From 1962-1964, the Supremes released several unsuccessful singles, working with different songwriters and alternating lead vocalists. In 1964, Motown founder Berry Gordy paired the group with the songwriting team Holland-Dozier-Holland and they released the single “Where Did Our Love Go.” It peaked at No. 1 on the Pop and Soul charts and established the recipe for the group’s success over the next half decade. Diana Ross became the de facto lead singer and Holland-Dozier-Holland supplied a series of deceptively simple, infectious singles that highlighted Ross’s wispy voice and sing-songy background vocals by Ballard and Wilson. The group released an unprecedented five #1 singles in a one year span, including “Baby Love”, “Stop! In The Name Of Love”, “Come See About Me” and “Back In My Arms Again.” Ross’s magnetism on stage and Gordy’s growing personal obsession with her lead to her becoming first among equals, and by 1967 the group was renamed Diana Ross & the Supremes, with Wilson and Ballard (and later Cindy Birdsong) taking an unfortunate back seat. By the following year it was clear that Gordy had intended to spring Ross as a solo artist, and a mini-“Farewell Tour” commenced at the end of 1969 and the beginning of 1970. The group’s final hit with Ross, the poignant “Someday We’ll Be Together”, was an appropriate coda to one of the most successful soul group lineups of all time. Ross’s solo career was huge and long lasting, providing her with major success on record and film for over fifteen years. Wilson forged on with the Supremes, but the group’s success without Ross was limited and fairly brief. In 1970-71, they scored hits with “Stoned Love”, “Up The Ladder To The Roof” and “Nathan Jones”, and then teamed with the Four Tops as the Magnificent Seven with the single “River Deep, Mountain High” before the Four Tops left Motown. The hits dried up and the group charted for a final time in 1976 with “You’re My Driving Wheel.” There were several lineup changes before the Supremes disbanded for good in the late 70s. Wilson continued as a solo artist, but her status grew even larger for what she did away from the studio. She became an outspoken advocate of many humanitarian causes, from AIDS awareness to social justice, to women’s health, to modernizing the copyright laws for artists and countless other causes. Helping others became her life’s work, and it won her several awards. In 2003, Wilson was named by the U.S. as one of nine cultural ambassadors, and she traveled the world tirelessly, spreading light. She also wrote several books, including the best-selling memoir Dreamgirl: My Life As A Supreme. It’s tough to overstate the importance of Mary Wilson as a performer and as a person. Her millions of fans will mourn her too-soon passing, but the work she did on and off the stage will resonate for generations to come. Wilson is survived by her daughter Turkessa, her son Pedro, and several grandchildren, as well as her sister Kathryn, and her brother Roosevelt. Services will be private due to COVID-19 restrictions, and a larger celebration of her life will take place later this year. The family ask in lieu of flowers, that friends and fans support UNCF.org and the Humpty Dumpty Institute.