Grammy Museum Tribute to the Supremes’ Mary Wilson

The Grammy Museum held a special tribute to the Supremes’ Mary Wilson March 4th, just two days before what would have been her 77th birthday and the release of Wilson’s double disc Motown Anthology. Wilson appeared at the Grammy Museum for a Q&A in 2015 and gave one of the most humorous interviews to take place there. In September 2019, Wilson was part of the Hollywood Walk of Fame induction ceremony for Jackie Wilson which may have been one of her last public appearances other than her time on Dancing With the Stars. Sadly Wilson passed away February 8th last year. Wilson left behind a huge legacy being part of one the greatest female vocal groups and continuing as a solo artist. As described by the museum, Wilson was a “Singer, activist, author, fashion icon, actress, U.S. cultural ambassador, motivational speaker, dancer, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, friend, trailblazer, legend.” In More recent years Wilson was a key part of the Music Modernization act in 2018. Wilson also helped raise awareness of HIV/Aids, encouraged world peace, fought to end hunger, and was a big advocate for artist rights.

”The Supremes (Originally Primettes) were formed by Wilson, Diana Ross, Betty McGlown, Florence Ballard in 1959 and by 1962 were a trio. The Supremes became one of Motown’s biggest acts as well as one of the biggest female groups of all time having 12 Number One singles on the Billboard Hot 100. Their classic lineup of Wilson, Ross, and Ballard lasted just 5 years. The group continued through 1977 and throughout each lineup Wilson remained the only consistent member. The tribute was hosted by Wilson’s daughter Turkessa Babich and was similar to a memorial in that there was a podium and each speaker came up one by one and shared a special memory of Wilson. The speakers included legendary song-writers, producers, actresses, and artists. However there was a panel at the end sharing more stories about Wilson with some of her closest friends. There was a surprise guest appearance by none other than Stevie Wonder who I remember Wilson sharing a story about him walking around Motown as a kid bumping into all the women at the museum in 2015. Wonder shared that Mary was the first person he met at Motown and said “When I was little she gave me candy.” Turkessa read a letter from former Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman and Claudette Robinson read one from Berry Gordy.

Following all the speakers were videos from some of Wilson’s close friends that could not be there in person including Sir Tom Tones, Rita Coolidge, Otis Williams (Temptations), Duke Fakir (Four Tops), Dionne Warwick, and Ruth Pointer. The video concluded with a video of WIlson herself which her long time publicist Jay D. Schwartz discussed when he spoke. The video was posted by Wilson on YouTube the day before her passed and Wilson was very happy to share all her upcoming releases and Supremes plans which had been unannounced at the time and was not meant to be revealed yet.  Also in that video Wilson shared how many important dates take place in February for Supremes’ anniversaries.

After the event attendees were given one of Wilson’s books and a cupcake with her face on it in celebration of what would’ve been her 77th birthday.

Speakers (In Order)

  1. Maxine Waters  (U.S. House of Representatives for CA)

  2. Mickey Stevenson (Motown song-writer/ producer)

  3. Janie Bradford (Motown song-writer)

  4. Shirley Washington (Actress)

  5. Brian and Eddie Holland (Motown songwriters Holland-Dozier-Holland)

  6. Iris (Former VP Motown) and daughter Karla Gordy (Commissioner of Arts & Culture Beverly Hills)

  7. Mary Wilson’s band

  8. Mark Bego (Author)

  9. Actress Marla Gibbs (The Jeffersons)

  10. Brenda Russell (Song-writer/ Producer)

  11. Jay Schwartz (Mary’s publicist of 40 years)

  12. Stevie Wonder

  13. First lady of Motown Claudette Robinson (The Miracles)

  14. Q&A led by Janice Littlejohn (Associate Director, Los Angeles Institute for the Humanities at USC) with Judy Lenteen Price (Actress), Claudette Robinson, Beverly Todd (Actress), Eloise Laws (Music artist)

Watch the event at : watch.grammymuseum.org/spotlight/videos/mary-wilson-tribute