Interview: Mary Wilson

mary-wilson-black-dressFrom June 2007:

Mary Wilson, one of the original Supremes, is nothing if not gracious. As I arrive to interview her about “Up Close” her upcoming cabaret show at Feinstein’s, she takes a look at the tuft of hair on my head and says “I like your hair. I think it’s very creative. It reminds me of Sarah Dash,” from the group Labelle, to which she adds, “I just love her!”

Since the Supremes were a very obvious inspiration for the musical—and now the film—“Dreamgirls,” I ask Wilson how she feels about being called “The Original Dreamgirl.” “Well, that title wasn’t my idea. If I were to come up with a title it would be more like ‘One of the Original Dreamgirls.’ I mean obviously there were three of us, and I always embraced the group. I would never think that I was the original one. So it’s other people who have used that expression, not me. It’s possibly only because I’m the only one who’s still thought of primarily as a Supreme, because Diane is Diana Ross, which goes beyond the Supremes. And Florence Ballard, the third member of our trio, has passed. So I think that’s why people are doing it. I really don’t like it; I would prefer that people said ‘One of the Original Dreamgirls.’”

So, that said, how does she feels about “Dreamgirls’? “I Loved ‘Dreamgirls’ from the very beginning I really, really did,” she says. “Still, though, always within my heart I feel that we should have been given full credit. Not saying ‘based loosely on’ but then still using everything about us. I have this bittersweet way of thinking about it. If I were not a Supreme, I would just say that it was great, I really would. But because I’m a Supreme, I feel that there was a certain amount of…I’ll just say the real story of the Supremes is yet to be told, because I don’t want to put any negatives on it since I really feel that ‘Dreamgirls’ is a beautiful thing. But I still find myself saying ‘Wait a minute, this is about us right?’ So why didn’t you just say that, or give us the full credit, or say it really is fictional and then don’t use images based on our pictures and albums.”

So, Mary, just when were you aware that gays form a big part of the Supremes fan base? “Oh, from the very beginning—I mean not so much when we were just in Detroit, but when the hit records started in 1964, oh yeah, we knew!” It took a while for her to realize just how much gays of the day were dancing to their tunes, at places like the Stonewall Inn, “I don’t think we consciously pursued the dance market in the 60s, I don’t think we originally geared the music in that direction. It just happened because people just found up-tempo soul to be the most danceable music of that time. Now, the 70s Supremes were different from the 60s Supremes in that regard. I think we became more involved in the dance culture in the 70s, with ‘Stoned Love’ and things like that.  Obviously, once that happened the gay following became bigger, a more noticeable entity, whereas in the 60s it wasn’t so out there. We all had an awareness of what was going on, but it wasn’t prominent, it wasn’t so much talked about. But in the 70s it became like this huge gay movement. “

So what can we expect from her stint at Feinstein’s? “Well, I wrote and produced ’Up Close” myself. I’ve always sung ballads and torch songs and I feel that’s what I do best. I want to see if I can take my career in this direction, because it’s always good to reinvent yourself. It’s a mix of standards—believe it or not I don’t consider myself a soul singer at all, I’m more of a saloon kind of singer. It’s a departure from the way people know me, they know me for ‘ooh-aah, baby, baby’ of the Supremes, don’t expect that.”

“I’m a rock and roll singer for my trade,” she continues, “I’m just a wildfire. But this show I’m just standing still without any regalia or anything like that. It’s just raw singing, what I feel I do best, what I really enjoy. I want to continue performing until I die, and I would like to be known for something other than the Supremes. I originally didn’t do any Supremes songs in this show. But then I saw so many of our fans out there. I said okay, I guess I gotta do at least one,” she laughs. “I won’t tell you which one, but there is just the one.”

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2 thoughts on “Interview: Mary Wilson

  1. Bear

    Diana had better wigs than me!
    Diana only offered me 4 Million to sing Ooh Baby Baby 3000 times
    Tom Jones Dumped me!
    My Ex husband Beat me
    There is a conspiracy to sabotage my career
    I make Polyester Look Good
    I “Could Have”, been as big a Star as Diana Ross, But Berry Gordy would not permit it.
    Has Been!

  2. tt

    Somebody needs to tell this dimwitted “bear” to get a life already. He certainly isn’t funny and is nowhere near intelligent. Everywhere and anywhere Mary Wilson is mentioned online, here he is with the same lame repetitive insults. For someone to spend their time specifically searching someone out only to post bile about them in the comments, it’s really quite a feat. It’s pathetic, but it’s a feat, alright. I mean, seriously, get a job already.

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