The Supremes: the Motown group’s members and number one songs as co-founder Mary Wilson dies age 76

Led by Diana Ross and including Florence Ballard, the group had many number one hits like Baby Love

Mary Wilson, co-founder of The Supremes, has died at the age of 76.

The singer’s sudden death was announced by her publicist Jay Schwartz but the cause of death has not been confirmed.

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Only two days before her death, Wilson uploaded a YouTube video confirming that she was working on new solo music.

The death of Mary Wilson, co-founder of The Supremes, was announced by her publicist Jay Schwartz (Getty Images)

Motown band The Supremes were the most successful American performers of the 1960s and Wilson remained a member of the iconic group until they disbanded.

Here’s everything you need to know about The Supremes.

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When was the group founded?

The group as Diana Ross & The Supremes, including Mary Wilson (left), Diana Ross and Cindy Birdsong (Getty Images)

The group was founded in Detroit as quartet The Primettes in 1959, made up of Wilson, who was 15 years old at the time, Diana Ross, Florence Ballard and Barbara Martin.

Wilson, whose family had moved to Detroit from Chicago, met Ballard at a primary school in the Michigan city while singing in a school talent show.

In 1958, Ballard recruited Wilson, Ross and Martin to form The Primettes.

The group performed covers at local events and made a name for themselves in the city.

They released their first single as a group in 1960.

Who were the group members?

Yet, Martin left the group after the single was produced and before they became successful, reducing them to the trio that would become famous.

By the time the band debuted for the Motown record label in 1961, they had been renamed The Supremes.

Six years later, after a slew of number one hits, Ballard was replaced in the group by Cindy Birdsong after reportedly displaying unprofessional behaviour.

Ballard suffered from depression and struggled with alcoholism, and died of a heart attack in 1976.

After her exit from the band, they were known as Diana Ross & The Supremes, as Ross had been the group’s lead vocalist.

The Motown founder, Berry Gordy, primed Ross for a successful solo career and in November 1969 her departure from The Supremes was announced.

The last show the trio played was in Las Vegas in January 1970.

Against the odds, The Supremes continued as a group with Jean Terrell replacing Ross.

However, they rarely made the charts after 1972 and they are now mostly remembered for the Ross-led era of the 1960s.

Wilson was always involved with the group from its beginning, and the group didn’t disband until 1977 following her departure.

After a legal battle with Motown, Wilson re-signed with the label as a solo artist, to some success.

She became a New York Times bestselling author in 1986 when she released her autobiography Dreamgirl: My Life as a Supreme.

What were The Supremes’ top songs?

At their peak, The Supremes reeled off five number one singles in a row and became America’s most successful vocal group.

Altogether, they had 12 number one singles on the Billboard Hot 100.

In mid-1964, Where Did Our Love Go, written by Holland-Dozier-Holland who produced all of the group’s hits until 1967, became The Supremes’ first number one in the US charts.

More consecutive chart-topping singles followed up to 1965, including Baby Love, which also reached number one in the UK, Stop! In the Name of Love, Come See About Me and Back in My Arms Again.

Other US number one singles included Someday We’ll Be Together, Love Child and You Keep Me Hanging On.

In 1966, their album Supremes A’ Go-Go became the first record by an all-woman group to top the US album charts, knocking the Beatles’ Revolver from the top spot.

Thanks to their success and iconic hits, The Supremes were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988.

Who has posted tributes to Mary Wilson?

After Wilson’s sudden death was announced, Motown Records founder Gordy said in a statement: "I was extremely shocked and saddened to hear of the passing of a major member of the Motown family, Mary Wilson of the Supremes.

"The Supremes opened doors for themselves, the other Motown acts, and many, many others... I was always proud of Mary.

“She was quite a star in her own right and over the years continued to work hard to boost the legacy of the Supremes.

“Mary Wilson was extremely special to me. She was a trailblazer, a diva and will be deeply missed."

Paul Stanley of Kiss tweeted his shock: "I was just on a Zoom call with her Wednesday for about an hour and never could have imagined this.

“So full of life and great stories. Absolutely shocked. Rest In Supreme Peace Mary."