Being Supreme 

Soul diva Bettye Lavette described Detroit in the 1960s as a dreamlike place where it seemed as if every young person either had a record or was in the process of cutting one. "That's just what you did," she told the Flyer prior to a concert stop at The Halloran Centre. This week, Memphis plays host to another veteran of that scene. In fact, as a founding member of the Supremes, Mary Wilson was one of the artists who helped to light Motown's fire.

click to enlarge Mary Wilson
  • Mary Wilson

Originally comprised of friends from Detroit's Brewster housing projects, the Supremes became the most successful female vocal group in history. Their fraught story, famously dramatized in the hit Broadway musical Dreamgirls, is so well known the narrative almost eclipses the group's incredible run of hit songs including, "Stop in the Name of Love," "Baby Love," "I Hear a Symphony," and "Reflections."

"We wanted hit records," Wilson told one interviewer following the release of her autobiography Dreamgirl. "We wanted to be stars," she said of the decision to make Diana Ross the group's permanent lead singer. "Whatever made us become stars, we agreed to.

"Any one of us could sing," she concluded, reducing all the drama down to a single, incontrovertible truth.

Wilson has continued to record and perform a mix of smoky jazz standards and pop. She spent the summer performing her show "Up Close" at New York's Regency supper club.

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