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Mary Wilson Of The Supremes Dies At 76

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Mary Wilson of The Supremes has died.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MY WORLD IS EMPTY WITHOUT YOU")

THE SUPREMES: (Singing) My world is empty without you, babe.

SACHA PFEIFFER, HOST:

Diana Ross, Florence Ballard and Mary Wilson were among Motown's biggest stars in the 1960s. Their first single as The Supremes was "I Want A Guy," released nearly 60 years ago. There were many more to follow - 12 No. 1 singles, including "Where Did Our Love Go," "Baby Love," "Come See About Me" and, of course...

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "STOP IN THE NAME OF LOVE")

THE SUPREMES: (Singing) Stop in the name of love before you break my heart.

MARTIN: In a 2006 interview with NPR, Wilson recalls the very beginning of the singing group before the friends became famous as The Supremes.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

MARY WILSON: I remember when Florence, Diana and I were 13 years old. And we started singing as the Primettes. You know, we did dare to dream at a time when it was almost an impossible dream for us to want to be stars. To say that we thought it would last, you know, some 50 years later, no, I don't think that we ever thought about that. But we knew we were good (laughter).

MARTIN: Turns out they were very good. The Supremes became one of the best selling vocal groups of all time. But that success didn't always come easy.

PFEIFFER: In 2003, Mary was doing publicity for a documentary called "Only The Strong Survive." She and other artists relegated to oldies stations were fighting for their legacy. Here she is during an appearance on "The Tavis Smiley Show."

(SOUNDBITE OF RADIO SHOW, "THE TAVIS SMILEY SHOW")

WILSON: We are national treasures. And if you look at the other part of the world where you have Sir Paul McCartney and Sir Elton John, you know, they elevate their stars. Here, we relegate them to being oldies. So we have got to start keeping our own people up and keep us out there because otherwise, we would be put out to pasture.

MARTIN: Just a few days before her death, Wilson posted a video to her YouTube channel celebrating Black History Month and promoting some interviews she had done to mark 60 years of The Supremes.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

WILSON: And I just want to thank you guys for, you know, chiming in and, you know, seeing some of the things that we did back in the day.

MARTIN: The Supreme Mary Wilson died yesterday. She was 76.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SOMEDAY WE'LL BE TOGETHER")

THE SUPREMES: (Singing) Someday, we'll be together. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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