Mary Wilson of The Supremes descended upon Boston this past weekend (March 3rd – 4th) for a two day, four show appearance at Scullers Jazz Club. Days shy of her 73rd birthday she showed no sign of it, only the experience and wisdom of her storied career. Her stage presence, wit and voice continue to remind the world that the appearances of The Supremes on The Ed Sullivan Show somehow still feel recent.
Make no mistake, as she declared at one point during the show, “Tonight is about me.” Playing only one Supreme song, “My World Is Empty Without You,” Mary’s approach to her jazz tour focuses on ballads that have special meaning to her and it was a pleasant surprise for her audience. Covering just about every era, she gave incredible renditions of artists like Lena Horne’s “Stormy Weather,” Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now,” and Norah Jones’ Grammy winning “Don’t Know Why.” Speaking of the Grammys, I asked Mary during our interview about, despite the fact of having 12 number one hits between 1964 and 1969, The Supremes have never won a Grammy. That had to be the most unbelievable fact of the evening, but a poignant one nonetheless, given that Black History month ended less than a week ago and we are now in Women’s History month. But again, this night was about her and what she has to show and say to the world now. She did of course have plenty to say about the love she shares with Diana Ross, and Mary continues to give voice to Florence Ballard, her fellow Supreme, who passed away in 1976. Mary even dedicated a heartfelt cover of “I am Changing” from Broadway’s Dreamgirls to Florence – a musical that offers parallels to The Supremes’ story. Finally, her encore performance was fitting for a Boston audience with her cover of Dorchester native Donna Summer’s “Last Dance.”
Our interview touched upon memorable performances, her work on her third book about her iconic gown collection, and some of her newer releases now available on iTunes, particularly her touching tribute to her mother, Johnnie Mae, which will make for a great Mother’s Day gift. And if you weren’t already aware, don’t forget her dance hit “Time to Move On” which reached 19th on Billboard’s Dance Chart in 2015. Not bad for 73!
Many thanks, once again, to Mary Wilson of The Supremes and Meg MacLean Corso of Universal Music Enterprises for making this dream a reality.
Kevin Neipp regularly hosts Songs from the Squid Pod as DJ Savoir Faire, Sunday nights from 10 – 11pm.