Photos, courtesy Kenn Lasky
Supremes c. 1971.
Mary Wilson c. 1980s with her best-selling autobiography,
Mary and granddaughter Mia Marie.
Photo, courtesy Carl Feuerbacher
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|Mary Wilson Is Solid Gold
In Naperville, Illinois
by Ynot Neerg
November 13, 1998
Co-founding member of Motown's Supremes, Mary Wilson--a solo act since the dissolution of the group in 1977--hit a pleasing chord with a packed house November 13 at the auditorium of Naperville's North Central College.Opening with an emotionally-charged rendition of Gloria Estefan's "Coming Out of the Dark" Wilson held the crowd spellbound as she entered the stage cloaked in white from head to toe until a climatic point in the song when she unveiled herself to the audience to thunderous applause. Wearing a gorgeous beaded evening gown and not looking a day over "Baby Love," Wilson was stunning, visually the epitome of what we remember most about the Supremes. Wilson welcomed the audience and announced that at 54 she had just recently become a grandmother, much to the shock of the theater. Surrounding my seat in the audience I could hear several people say, "She looks absolutely beautiful! How old did she say she was?"
In 1970, Diana Ross left the Supremes to pursue solo divadom. She was replaced by Jean Terrell, sister of boxer Ernie Terrell. The Rossless Supremes continued to enjoy success in spite of the lack of interest and promotion by Motown. Disillusioned, Terrell left the group in 1973. She was replaced by bubbly Scherrie Payne, (younger sister of Freda Payne and former singer with the group Glass House) and was responsible for The Supremes' final top 40 single, "I'm Gonna Let My Heart Do The Walking" in 1976. In 1977, Wilson disbanded the group and struck out on her own.
Although redefining herself as a solo act, Wilson never abandoned her Supremes roots and has always included their material in her act. However, in addition, she has carved out a niche for herself by doing what she does best--ballads. Throughout the night we were treated to some of these gems as she did spectacular covers of Sting's "Fields of Gold" and the reflective "Wind Beneath My Wings," which she dedicates to her excellent support staff of backup singers and musicians. Midway through her set, Wilson exits to change into a short black dress for a Supremes medley for those whom she calls "all those old, old teenagers in the house."
In the 1980s, Wilson pulled together her diaries and memoirs to pen the best-selling book Dreamgirl: My Life As A Supreme, a documentation of her years with Ross, Florence Ballard, and Motown. It was followed by Supreme Faith: Someday We'll Be Together, which picked up where Dreamgirl left off, explaining, in part, why Motown lost interest after Ross' departure. Nevertheless, it was clear that audiences never lost interest as Wilson was treated to several standing ovations. However, she did not give the audience as many encores as they would have liked. A good rule in show business is to "always leave them wanting more." After the show, people were simply abuzz, proof that Wilson knows what she's doing and will always reign Supreme.
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