Mary Wilson :: The Supreme Singer Performs at Feinstein's

  • by David Elijah-Nahmod
  • Sunday February 11, 2018
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The incomparable Mary Wilson, a founding member of Diana Ross and The Supremes, makes her debut at Feinstein's at the Nikko on February 16. The chanteuse will be singing familiar Supremes classics as well as tunes from the Great American Songbook.

"In most of the shows I sing a good amount of the Supremes' hits, as well as some of my favorite top hits of other artists," Wilson tells Bay Area Reporter. "I don't want to give it away as song selections change all of the time."

San Francisco has long been a staple on Wilson's touring schedule.

"As a Supreme, I have performed in San Francisco many times, mostly at the famous Fairmont Hotel," she said. "I have performed at the York Hotel where I recorded my first American song book CD called, Up Close. I still have many very close friends there whom I visit often. I love the city."

She shared her most memorable San Francisco experience.

"Someone broke into our designer's studio in the late 1960s and stole the jackets of one of our most famous suits," she said. "That I will always remember."

It was in 1963 that The Supremes scored "When the Lovelights Start Shining Through His Eyes," their first hit. This was followed by a string of top sellers. Songs like "Baby Love" and "Where Did Our Love Go" cemented the girl group as superstars. Wilson remained with the group until 1977, long after co-founders Diana Ross and Florence Ballard had departed. She is in fact the longest serving member of the group.

During her post Supremes years, Wilson found success as a solo concert performer. She has released a number of CDs -she is currently working on a new disc- and wrote two best-selling autobiographies. Her achievements are many. In 2003 she was named U.S. Cultural Ambassador by then-Secretary of State Colin Powell.

"It was an honor being asked by Colin Powell to be an American Cultural Ambassador," Wilson recalls. "I had the opportunity to travel the world all over again in this position, meeting with people in various governments like the presidents of African countries. To speak with children there about AIDS and the epidemic and its effect on people all over the world; it was truly an honor to be in such a role."

Wilson, along with her Supremes comrades, have also been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

"The Supremes' legacy for me is hard to define," said Wilson. "I would venture to say that the music and the clamor would be what the world saw. But for Black America, the subtitle is the inspiration of our achievements. African-Americans opened their eyes to see three Black girls of color on The Ed Sullivan TV show; in all their beauty. That was so new to the American culture. Americans sat in front of their TV sets to watch colored people with their entire families. It was truly a miracle, almost like Obama becoming the first Black president of the U.S."

Wilson is also involved in the fight to stop musical artists' work from being stolen.

"The Truth in Music bill has been passed in more than 30 states," she says with pride. "This bill is to stop impostors from using the names of famous groups as their own. This movement was started by me and many other artists like The Drifters. We lobbied on Capitol Hill. As our nation speaks of identity theft, we the music makers speak of the theft of our music and famous names; our plight is the same only in a musical sense."

Above all, Wilson considers her family to be her proudest achievement, saying, "Having my children was the icing on the cake as a woman."

Mary Wilson performs at Feinstein's at the Nikko, Friday February 16 at 8pm. $48.75-85 ($20 food/drink min.). Hotel Nikko, 222 Mason St.