Mary Wilson of The Supremes still enjoys performing for her fans
Singer will play three nights at the Egyptian
Mary Wilson is the longest remaining and one of the original members of The Supremes, the pioneering Motown trio that recorded 12 No. 1 hits including “Baby Love” and “Stop in the Name of Love.”
She is also a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee, author and activist.
With so many things on her plate, one has stood out in her mind for the past couple of weeks: her three-night run at the Egyptian Theatre that starts on Thursday, July 27.
“This has been on my schedule for quite a long time and now, the time has come,” Wilson said during a phone call from her home in Henderson, Nevada.
The concerts will feature an array of music.
“It’s hard to say it’s a retrospective show,” Wilson said. “It’s like when Elton John does his concerts. He does all of the songs he made famous.
“So with the time I have, I try to sing most of the hits that The Supremes had, but also I will do songs that I, as Mary Wilson, love to sing.”
Although the singer is aware of The Supremes’ place in popular music, she just enjoys performing for people.
“I started singing with the Primettes and Supremes, because I totally enjoyed being on stage and doing whatever that is,” she said. “That’s still the reason I do this.
“Having said all of that, if I went on stage and just did stuff that Mary Wilson wanted to do, that would not be fun for me, nor would it be fun for the audience.”
Still, Wilson said it’s a phenomenal feeling to be a part of the history of American music.
“I look to the people who I grew up listening to, and while many aren’t with us anymore, some are still here, like Little Richard and Johnny Mathis,” she said. “To know I’m following in their footsteps and being revered like they are is a wonderful feeling of, I guess I can use the work accomplishment. But I’m just doing something that God gave me the ability to do.”
There is, however, no denying what The Supremes accomplished in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
“Our success was something phenomenal, because it came at a time when, as black women, we were not equal to other people,” Wilson said. “Having our success when were 18 and 19 back then was a big thing, especially on an international basis.
“That changed my perspective about humanity. It was mind boggling, but also a feeling of freedom. I feel honored to still do this and having people enjoy it.”
Wilson still gets a thrill when she starts singing “Baby Love” or “Stop in the Name of Love.”
“It’s something to see people just jumping up and down and doing the hand movements,” she said with a laugh. “Sometimes they do hand movements that I don’t know if we ever did, and this is some 50 years later since the songs were on the radio.”
Wilson also enjoys seeing young people at her shows.
“These are the ones who watched their moms or grandmothers doing the same thing,” she said. “Many people feel they need to get away from work to have fun, but performing live is my work and vacation.”
Wilson, now 73, said although the demands of performing or making appearances can sometimes be a challenge, the situations are different than what they were 40 years ago.
“When we first started, we wanted to get a hit record and try to do those kinds of things,” she said. “In this stage in my life, while it would be great to have a hit record, those types of days are over. So I’m doing some other things other than singing.”
Wilson is taking acting classes,and just filmed her first short film.
She is also taking voice-over training.
“That’s something that a lot of people are doing now,” she said.
Wilson still would like to do some TV.
“Not reality,” she quickly said with a laugh. “I just choose to do these things because I want to continue to grow. While it would be nice to be comfortable, I don’t think I could just retire.”
Wilson, who has written two memoirs, is currently working on a coffee-table book of The Supremes performance gowns and costumes, she said.
In addition to those projects, the singer is involved in various charities, such as Figure Skating in Harlem, the Humpty Dumpty Institute, F.A.M.E. (Friends Against Musical Exploitation) and National Foundation for Women Legislatures.
“We started getting involved in charities when I was in The Supremes, and a lot of times you fall into areas that you enjoy,” she said. “That’s what happened to me. It gives myself a place to broaden my horizons.”
As a Supreme, Wilson performed for Britain’s Queen Mother and the future King of Sweden and other international audiences.
In 2003, former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell named her one of nine cultural ambassadors.
As an ambassador, Wilson visited poverty-stricken areas in the world and addressed young people about the dangers of HIV and AIDS, and gave presentations about her quest for world peace.
Wilson also visited Laos, which received a $3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to improve the quality of life of children who were not attending school because they were hungry or in danger of unexploded ordnances.
“Getting involved in charities also allows me not to only be responsible to myself, but also to the world and the community, especially the children,” she said. “I have four children, three biological and one adopted, and love being apart of this.
Life is one of those amazing things that I’m proud to be a part of.”
Mary Wilson of The Supremes will perform for three nights at 8 p.m. on Thursday, July 27, to Saturday, July 29, at the Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St. Thursday tickets range from $39 to $65. Friday and Saturday tickets range from $43 to $70. They can be purchased by visiting http://www.parkcityshows.com.
Park City Follies and the Bestminster Dog Show highlight activities in Park city this weekend.