Wilson died suddenly at her home in Henderson, Nevada, according to her publicist. No cause of death was released.
A singer as well as a best-selling author, Wilson helped form female singing group The Primettes in Detroit in 1959, alongside Diana Ross, Florence Ballard and Betty McGlown. The latter left the group and was replaced by Wilson. Wilson, Ross and Ballard went on to enjoy huge success as The Supremes.
Under the Detroit-based Motown Records label, the group scored 12 No. 1 hits with songs like “Baby Love” and “Stop! In the Name of Love,” and remains influential decades later.
Wilson stayed on with The Supremes even after the original members left and new ones joined the lineup. The group split up in 1977, and she pursued a solo career. Slideshow ( 2 images )
“I have so many wonderful memories of our time together,” Ross wrote on Twitter on Tuesday. “‘The Supremes’ will live on in our hearts.”
Motown Records founder Berry Gordy said The Supremes “were always known as the ‘sweethearts of Motown.’”
“I was always proud of Mary,” Gordy said in a statement. “She was quite a star in her own right and over the years continued to work hard to boost the legacy of the Supremes. ... She was a trailblazer, a diva and will be deeply missed.”
The Supremes were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988. The 2006 film “Dreamgirls,” starring Beyonce and Jennifer Hudson, was loosely based on their story.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, a funeral service for Wilson will be private, her publicist said. A celebration of her life is expected later in the year. Reporting by Marie-Louise Gumuchian in London; Additional reporting by Lisa Richwine in Los Angeles; Editing by Alexandra Hudson and Jonathan Oatis