Mary Wilson loves what she does. Going out on stage, singing and performing to adoring audiences around the world is what she does best. She loves to create. She can’t help herself. She’s an artist. As an artist, Wilson enjoys creating good music. She’s been doing that for quite a while now, rising to stardom with the greatest female group of all-time before embarking on a successful solo career.
She’s a lifetime showbiz wizard, naturally ushering out touching love ballads and moving and grooving to the sound of bluesy jazz and a little bit of rock “n” roll. The former Supremes star will be doing her thing on stage tonight as the headliner in a “Tribute to Motown” at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts.
This is a one-night gig for those folks who love soul music and appreciate the lasting legacy that Berry Gordy and Motown have given to so many people around the world. Wilson won’t be on stage solo representing the Motown sound as she will have members of The Original Vandellas and The Contours performing their old hits as well. Wilson said anytime her Detroit music buddies can perform on stage with one another to do a performance, it is like getting together with family.
“It’s like a family reunion,” Wilson said in a phone interview with News4usonline.com.
What Gordy achieved as the founder of Motown is perhaps unprecedented. He made black music a staple in the everyday lives of all people, regardless of race, gender or religion. From the unequaled songwriting of Smokey Robinson and Holland, Dozier, and Holland-to the graceful soul singing of Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, Mary Wells, Martha Reeves and Vandellas, and, of course, the beautiful and talented members of the Supremes-Motown was and still is the standard of soul music.
Wilson said there is something magical about the Motown sound.
“The 60s was a very special time,” Wilson said. “Berry Gordy and Motown had a great sense of what was out there. We all owe Berry Gordy a lot. Motown was great. There was something about the music. It crossed all boundaries. The music transcended everything.”
As an original member of the Supremes, along with Diana Ross and Florence Ballard, Wilson and the group enjoyed the type of fame and success that one can only dream about. Gordy and Motown gave the world three songbirds. The Supremes turned around and gave the world harmonious enjoyment, pumping out a dozen No.1 hits, including Baby Love, I Hear a Symphony and Back in My Arms Again. Wilson considers herself blessed to have had that opportunity.
“Having been with the Supremes, it was a dream come true,” Wilson said. “This was a time when it was a good time for people to become rich and famous, especially black people. We were there at a good time.”
The Vandellas were also there, cranking out their own niche in the midst of the talent-rich Motown machine. Among the hits that made the Vandellas popular were up tempo songs like Dancing in the Streets, Nowhere to Run, (Love is Like) A Heatwave, and Jimmy Mack.
The Contours with Joe Billingslea are best known for their dance-infused single, “Do You Love Me (Now That I Can Dance) hit that went to No. 2 on the Billboard music charts, so the crowd can expect to get up and move a little bit when the group hits the stage. Wilson, who has also become a well-known author after writing her bestselling autobiography, “Dreamgirl: My Life as a Supreme,” prefers to slow it down when she is singing, opting for the intensity of a love song rather than jumping all over the stage.
That doesn’t mean to suggest she’s lost a step or two from her Supremes’ heyday. Considering herself to be a rocker, Wilson still has the physical equipment, charisma and energy to wow any crowd. As long she is performing, Wilson says she’s having the time of her life. And she has no plans of slowing down.
“I love what I do,” Wilson said. “I’m out there all the time. When you’re in love with what you do, you don’t want to stop. The longevity is because I love performing.”