Mary Wilson has done something, in the entertainment business, most people will never accomplish. At 65, she’s had a career spanning over 50 years. A founding member of arguably the greatest female group of all time, The Supremes, Wilson seems happy, excited and eager for what’s ahead.
A former U.S. Cultural Ambassador, she’s still involved with numerous causes. For example, Ms. Wilson performed at a Washington, D.C. fundraiser last week to raise awareness for lupus. Later this year, she will put out a CD touching upon her worldviews.
Still, the question remains whether or not The Supremes will ever have a reunion tour. Wilson wants one, but she and Ross would have to come to an agreement. Mary says she and Diana really love each other and that their relationship isn’t as bad as people think.
Ms. Wilson continues to thrive, when other performers have not been as fortunate. She still has passion for entertaining. She loves what she’s doing.
Listen to the Mary Wilson interview:
Chris Yandek: How have you been in recent years? What else has been new?
Mary Wilson: “Well, I am doing very well actually. Kinda traveling around the world, you know, doing that. I am recording as well so that’s something I’m very happy to say. Hopefully I’ll have something out on the airways very soon.”
CY: You still perform all over the world, involved in numerous causes, and always have other projects going on. What is it that keeps you going today during this solo career?
MW: “Well, hey! I enjoy doing what I’m doing. When I met Florence [Ballard] and Diane [Ross], it was one of those things that I knew I wanted to do this for the rest of my life. I don’t have a problem still doing this. I’m very blessed to still be able to do it. “
CY: So many performers come and go, let one thing or another tear them down, they have demons, but you’re still here, you’re active after more than 40 years. How have you done it? What was the key?
MW: “I think that maybe the difference in people continuing on and people stopping is that it depends on what you want for yourself. I enjoy being on stage. So since I enjoy being on stage and doing all the things that go along with being a performer, I don’t have a problem with trying to find something else to do. I was talking to someone else and I was saying this type of job, being an entertainer leads you to different avenues.
Even though I get on stage and I sing every night I’m also doing other types of activities that are still entertaining. I’m here because this is what I like to do. Some people might just want to try to be on top of the charts and if they don’t that they’re unhappy and maybe go and try to get out of it and do something different. Well, I’m not really trying to be a recording star. I’ve kind of done that. We’ve had 12 number one records. My thing is about the entertaining.”
CY: You’re working on a new album that will be out hopefully sometime this year, what can we expect from it?
MW: “Well, the actual CD is the original composition of I think about maybe 10 songs. They are songs that were written with me and my life in mind. The writers were previewed to my diaries so they saw many of my thoughts. I told them what I wanted to sing about. I told them just my feelings about life. They know me. So we were able, they were able to make compositions that were about what I believe. So it’s all really about what’s going on now in the world and what I feel about life, love, and the pursuit of happiness I guess you could say. The songs will be there.
They are not geared towards the younger generation as much as they are geared to people from my generation. I’m not trying to compete with those who are on the charts. As I was saying, I’m not trying to do that. If one goes number one that’s great, but that’s not what I’m really after.”
CY: What is the important thing you’ve learned about yourself in these 65 years?
MW: “Well, I learned a lot son. That would take a whole other show.”
CY: Ok. How about the most important thing to yourself?
MW: “Basically what we’ve been speaking about. Why I’m still in the business. What makes me happy? I’ve learned that’s very important for people to really try to do what makes them happy. It’s not about trying to become something that you don’t want or just working. I think what I’ve learned is that life is about doing what you want.”
CY: Calling it your own.
MW: “You can say that if you want. When you get a little older, you realize you don’t have to try and keep up with everyone else. You don’t try to be what someone else wants you to be. You really need to see what you want to be and I think that’s kinda what I’m expressing and what I’ve found.”
CY: When it comes to the numerous social causes you’ve been involved in, what is it that inspires you to be out there making a difference?
MW: “I’ve had a long time to be part of a successful group and get the awards and things of that. That’s been really rewarding. I decided that life is more than about accumulating awards. It’s about perhaps being there for other people as well. That’s probably what keeps me involved in different causes.”
CY: When it comes to The Supremes, was there ever a moment for you looking back where you knew you were part of something that would forever change society and would be as historic as it has happened to be?
MW: “I don’t think I was thinking of it in that particular way. However, I can say for sure that when we were doing certain things at a certain time especially in the 60s, it was very clear that we were involved in something that was very significant. That it would last for so many years? I don’t know if we thought about that as much because when you’re young, as I’ve said many times, you don’t really…really think about time and getting old. I thought getting old was you have to be reborn. (Laughs) I think there was something within us knowing that we were definitely doing something very…very special.”
CY: So what does it mean to you when somebody comes up to you and talks about something from the 60s or the 70s for example? What does it mean to you when someone says, ‘Oh I remember that hit. I used to listen to that all the time. I used to have the record.’ What does it mean to you?
MW: “It means a lot actually. It means an awful lot because now looking back it’s very obvious that the music, the lifestyle, what we did really touched a lot of lives. Now when people say that, I really…really appreciate it probably more now than I did then. It’s always very gratifying to hear that. Sometimes I hear things that are negative against me, against Diana, against the whole thing, Motown, whatever. That really sometimes pisses me off because I look at all the wonderful things I think that we did accomplish as a group and those things are hurtful too and they happen.”
CY: Well, I’m sure there were many disagreements, many conflicts. You would say to yourself all musical groups have conflicts. All record labels have conflicts with their talents. Am I right? Am I wrong?
MW: “Oh sure. Oh sure. I have a lot of friends who have been in the business as long as us or almost as long, some of the girl groups. We talk all the time. We’re always talking. They tell you about some of their problems and I realize everybody has problems. It’s just how you get through them and move on. It’s not unique to us at all.”
CY: I think many people would be wondering how would you describe your relationship with Diana Ross today?
MW: “It’s not like I would want it to be, but it’s better than most people would think. We still really love each other no matter what you guys think. We love each other very much. I think it definitely could be better, but I think other people need to look at their lives and see the people they are not as close to as they should be and leave us alone. Let us handle our own situation cause many times it makes us worse.”
CY: Do you ever think there would be a possibility that there would ever be a true reunion tour of The Supremes, where you and Diana Ross could put everything aside and make that happen?
MW: “Well, you know I don’t have a crystal ball, but I can say certainly I would like it to happen. It does take all of us to want that.”
CY: At the end of June you’re going to be over in the U.K. on a once in a lifetime Motown Legends Tour. What is that going to be like getting back together with all of these people after 40 something years?
MW: “This is kinda like one of those questions you just asked. It’s really nice to be back with people you grew up with and are kinda like family. I don’t get a chance to see all these people all that time. This is a wonderful opportunity as well. I cannot wait for the tour. It’s gonna be fun. The people there, I just spoken to the promoter over there, he said they are so excited in England that we’re having this tour. We’re playing at the Wembley in London. We’re doing all the big arenas there in England in various cities. We’re all very excited about it.”
CY: You’ve had all this acclaim and all this success for 50 years, but so many people either develop an ego, either have arrogance, but you just seem to be so humble. You seem to be so excited to still be involved in the scene. Where do you get it from?
MW: “I guess I was just blessed to be able to do what I want to do in life. When I say do, have the type of career and have the type of life that I want. I think that if everybody were doing something that they enjoy we’d all be happier. Sometimes you can’t do that you know?
I knew that I’ve been in that situation where even though I was in a great group, there are things you have to do that don’t make you so happy, it might be good for the whole, but I’d rather be doing this. It’s really great for me, especially when I look back and say, ‘Wow! I’m still doing what I want to do, performing on stage for people.’ Maybe that’s it. I don’t know. Also, I guess I was just born this way. What can I say? (Laughs)”
CY: What do you hope to bring to the table with your music, with your performing for the rest of your life?
MW: “I’m still in this because of whatever God given talent I have. That’s my gift to the world. Obviously to record and have something that expresses that gift is my joy and is my desire. I would like to bring more years of happiness to people if they are down or depressed. I put on Sade and I put on Luther and I put on Nancy Wilson so I want them to put on Mary Wilson to help them through the day, to give them some happiness, to give them a moment of relaxation, whatever is needed and we receive through music. I certainly receive that when I listen to various people. That’s my desire that people will have the same thing when they hear Mary Wilson up to date.”
You can keep up to date with everything Mary Wilson at her official website http://www.marywilson.com