Advertisement

Supreme Birthday Wishes to Mary and Diana

Jason A. Michael

Sixty years ago this year, Motown supergroup and Detroit darlings The Supremes had their first of what would go on to become 12 number-one hits with “Where Did Our Love Go.” It broke a long losing streak and swiftly brought an end to the nickname “No-Hit Supremes.” Along with The Temptations, The Four Tops, Martha Reeves and The Vandellas, among others, The Supremes helped define the Motown Sound, or as Berry Gordy called it back in the day, the Sound of Young America. 

Still, no other group can lay claim to as many number ones as the Supremes and, later, Diana Ross and The Supremes, would eventually rack up. These songs — classics really — have stood the test of time and still sound fresh and fantastic to this day. But 60 years is a long time. Diana Ross will turn 80 on March 26. Mary Wilson, the original Dreamgirl and Ross’s groupmate (some might say nemesis) would have reached that mark earlier this month had she not tragically left us four years ago.

Let me be clear. I love all eight of the ladies who would call themselves Supremes between the time the group signed with Motown in 1961 until 1977, when it officially disbanded. 

My love for the group started when I was still in the single digits. I discovered my mom’s record collection early and, thank the gods, she was a big Supremes fan. I quickly fell in love with the group. And after I’d gone through all of my mom’s albums, I started to buy new Supremes records — any record I didn’t have was considered a new album to me — from the Harmony House record store in the Southgate Shopping Center. As I grew, so, too, did my love for the girls, as Ed Sullivan used to call them. They were poised and sophisticated in stunning beaded gowns. What’s not to like?

Fast forward, dear readers, to me at the age of 20. Wilson was always a particular favorite of mine. Perhaps it was her tenacity that impressed me. She was the Energizer Bunny of popular music. Nothing was going to stop her, and she used the name of the group she cofounded to keep her in the spotlight up until her untimely death at the age of 76. Wilson wrote two books, “Dreamgirl: My Life as a Supreme” and “Supreme Faith: Someday We’ll Be Together.” Until I read the latter, I had no idea The Supremes had continued on without Ross. For some seven years, no less. 

It was Wilson who kept the group going, and I admired her for that. Besides, she was known as “the sexy one” of the group. She was not the lead singer of the group, but she didn’t have to be. Oprah once recounted the story of how mesmerized she was to see three beautiful Black women on Sullivan’s show. There were three ladies on that show. Three Supremes at any given time. And they all made their mark.

Living briefly in North Carolina, I joined the Mary Wilson International Fan Club, ran for years by devotee Carl Feuerbacher. Through the club, I came in contact and became pen pals with Chris Martinez from New Jersey, whom we called Flo, and Jason Kroll from Minnesota, whom we called Mary. All around the same age, a second generation of Supremes fan if you will, we wrote to each other for quite some time and, thankfully, I got the chance to meet both of them. Sadly, I met them each individually. And, sadder still, like his precious Flo, Chris was the first to leave us, dying suddenly several years ago.

I’m thankful that Chris got to know Wilson a bit before he passed. Jason got the opportunity as well. And me too, thanks to Between The Lines and Pride Source, for whom I interviewed Wilson several times. The first was during the failed Diana Ross and The Supremes Return to Love Tour in 2000. Wilson had come home for the Brewster-Douglass Projects family reunion and was only too happy to share her thoughts on why the tour failed.

In the years to follow, I not only interviewed Wilson but was blessed to hang out with her a couple times, including at a private birthday party for her at Bert’s on Broadway following a performance of “The Vagina Monologues” she took part in at the Detroit Opera House. I was called upon to write Wilson’s obituary for BTL when she died. Sadly, that was the last thing I wrote about her.

Don’t get it twisted, please. My love for Wilson does not preclude me from loving the rest of the girls passionately. There is only one Ross. The Boss. I have fond memories of driving in my red 1987 Mercury Topaz while listening to my Ross cassette tapes from her RCA years, buzzing all over town singing along at the top of my lungs. I’ve never been blessed to meet her, though I’ve seen her in concert several times. It’s hard to believe she’s about to turn 80. 

Ross shows little sign of slowing down. She’s announcing new tour dates for this summer, and I’m hoping she makes a stop in her hometown. But I have left the days of being a fanatic far behind me. I’ve seen many grown men — much more grown than me — living their lives vicariously through their favorite Supreme. I might have been guilty of that for a brief time. But it got old quick. 

Still, I have a healthy amount of love and admiration for all of the Supreme ladies. And thanks to Mary, a very special part of my childhood Motown fantasy came to life. She’s in that big sock hop in the sky now, singing, once again, with Flo. Hopefully, it will be some time before Ross joins them. But when she does, I hope they’ll give a reunion concert in heaven, since the girls could never quite get it together to do it down here. 

Advertisement
Advertisement

From the Pride Source Marketplace

Go to the Marketplace
Directory default
Five-star hotel and casino in the heart of downtown Detroit.
Learn More
Directory default
Detroit Regional LGBT Chamber of Commerce MemberImply By Design is a Michigan-owned, full-service…
Learn More
Directory default
AWBS has four locations in Wayne and Macomb counties and a dedicated staff that works to offer the…
Learn More
Directory default
So you've partied all evening but you're not ready to call it a night. Escape Lounge is an…
Learn More
Advertisement