Legendary artist/author and original and founding member of the Supremes, Mary Wilson was also known as a tireless advocate for the Black and LGBTQ+ communities.
The Motown/UMe April release of Mary Wilson: Expanded Edition represented an ongoing effort to honor her memory and her passion for celebrating life through music. Her work to raise awareness of the need for tolerance and equality is especially poignant during June, which is dedicated to Black Music Month and Pride Month; her music provides a fitting backdrop to celebrations and events — from intimate events to large-scale community celebrations.
Ms. Wilson believed in the power of music, especially the joy The Supremes brought to the world. She carried on that legacy throughout her career and right up to the days before her untimely passing in February, just weeks before the release of Mary Wilson: Expanded Edition.
“The music was inclusive. It didn’t matter who you were, the music touched your soul. Music, to me, brought all the souls together. I’ve always said that Motown was an ambassador for love and for friendship because it brought people together.” – Mary Wilson in a 2015 interview with Pride Source.
Mary Wilson: Expanded Edition was originally announced to celebrate her 77th Birthday and honor her history and legacy with the first of her album projects. Ms. Wilson, who retained ownership of her solo recordings, wanted to make the album – and much more – available to her many fans around the world. Mary Wilson: Expanded Edition is a newly compiled version of her solo album, originally released by Motown in 1979, that will now be available on all digital platforms for the first time. Added to the album are eight incredible bonus tracks, four of them unreleased, including the legendary tracks recorded as a follow-up to the album produced by Gus Dudgeon (Elton John, Joan Armatrading, Chris Rea, et al). Featured as the lead single is a brand-new song, “Why Can’t We All Get Along,” produced by Richard Davis and co-written with Angelo Bond, who previously had great success as a co-writer with General Johnson and Greg Perry for “Bring The Boys Home.”
Mary Wilson, who had many fond memories around recording her solo debut, was so excited about the release of this album that, after finalizing details with UMe, she created an impromptu “teaser,” posting what was to be her final YouTube video. “I finally decided how to work with Universal, and they are going to release new Mary Wilson recordings,” she said. “Yes! At last! At last,” adding that the expanded version of the album, known by her and to fans as “Red Hot,” referring to its lead single, will include the Dudgeon productions – and something new. “It was four wonderful songs that were never released… and I also have some other songs, some surprising new songs… Thank you Universal for chiming in with me and helping this come true. Hopefully some of that will be out on my birthday, March 6th… I’ve got my fingers crossed.”
Sadly, the world mourned the sudden passing of Mary Wilson on February 8th, which also marked the 56th anniversary of The Supremes’ #1 hit, “Stop! In the Name Of Love.” She was a world-renowned singer, best-selling author, a humanitarian, artist rights advocate, philanthropist, cultural ambassador for the U.S. appointed by Colin Powell, but she was best known as a “Supreme.” She was the co-founder of the original Supremes, along with Diana Ross and Florence Ballard, which signed to Motown in January 1961, making this year their 60th anniversary. The group broke down barriers by becoming the world’s most popular female singing trio, with an unprecedented string of 12 number one hits, 33 top 40 singles, a record breaking 5 consecutive number ones, and the first number one album for a female group. Mary Wilson is the only member with the group from their signing in 1961 to their disbanding in 1977. Their legendary history is the foundation for dozens of books, movies, and even three Broadway musicals.
But the often-overlooked history is of the solo careers of Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard. Ballard had previously released an album on ABC Records while, upon leaving the Supremes, Mary Wilson released her self-titled solo album debut on Motown, her label for the previous 18 years. Mary Wilson had the potential of becoming a dance classic. Famed Motown Producer Hal Davis, known for #1 hits on the Jackson 5, Thelma Houston and Diana Ross crafted a lush disco album for Wilson, with six dance tracks and a mid-tempo ballad. Wilson recorded the album while pregnant with her youngest son, Raphael, and for the album’s cover shoot she was wrapped in a jacket to hide the pregnancy.
“Red Hot” was the obvious lead single. But just prior to the release of the album the infamous Disco Demolition Night took place at Comiskey Park in Chicago on July 12, 1979. The “Disco Sucks” movement impacted the release of Mary Wilson, and the single reached #85 on the dance chart and #95 on the R&B chart. This new collection retrieves for history the song’s rare 12” and 7” mixes, which were unique from the album’s version. Despite being loved by fans, and the release of a second single, “Pick Up the Pieces” in the U.K., the Mary Wilson album did not get the recognition it deserved.
In 1980, Mary Wilson headed to Europe to record with Elton John’s producer, Gus Dudgeon. The late Dudgeon, who started as Decca Records’ in-house recording engineer, became a key creative collaborator with Elton John, producing seven No. 1 albums, in addition to creating masterworks with David Bowie, Joan Armatrading, Chris Rea, and many more.
Wilson wrote in her second autobiography, Supreme Faith: Someday We’ll Be Together, “I was very excited about these four songs. It wasn’t the formula disco of my first album. Two of the songs were big ballads. The other two were rock and roll in the style of Tina Turner’s mid-eighties hits; I was certainly ahead of the time.” Three of the four songs were never released. The fourth song, “You Dance My Heart Around the Stars,” first made available in 2015 on a collection of the co-writer’s, Steve Kalinich, a frequent collaborator of the Beach Boys, is considered one of Wilson’s finest performances.
In 1986 Mary Wilson wrote her best-selling autobiography, Dreamgirl: My Life As A Supreme, followed by two more books, Supreme Faith: Someday We’ll Be Together, and Supreme Glamour. Although Mary continued to record and release music through the rest of her career, fans have continually requested to hear this music. These songs remain among the most requested items in the Motown catalog.
While recording more music over the last 10 years, Mary Wilson reconnected with Richard Davis, executive of Gold Forever Music, a publishing company established by Eddie Holland after leaving Motown. In the early days of Motown, Holland-Dozier-Holland was the songwriting team responsible for The Supremes’ string of hit records.
While Mary continued to record, she kept a journal with her most personal thoughts, perspective, outlook, philosophy on life, beliefs based on her experiences and topics of the day. Richard Davis discussed this song with Wilson. Mary told Davis and Bond that their lyrics were able to capture and articulate her feelings into song and help her tell her story. As she was watching and writing about her feelings about the political unrest and the division in the country, Mary felt strongly about releasing “Why Can’t We All Get Along,” now in the hopes of spreading a positive message through music.
Mary Wilson: Expanded Edition
1. Red Hot (6:06)
2. I’ve Got What You Need (5:08)
3. You Make Me Feel So Good (5:51)
4. (I Love A) Warm Summer Night (4:07)
5. Pick Up the Pieces * (5:01)
6. You’re the Light That Guides My Way (3:18)
7. Midnight Dancer (3:08)
#1-7: Produced by Hal Davis
* Co-Produced by Hal Davis & Bobby Belle
Originally issued as Motown M7-927 R1 (1979)
The Red Hot Singles
8. Red Hot 7” Single Version (3:53)
9. Red Hot 12” Disco Version – Remixed by Rusty Garner (7:12)
10. Red Hot 12” B-Side Promo Version – Remixed by Rusty Garner (3:53) – previously unreleased commercially
The Gus Dudgeon Sessions – previously unreleased except **
11. You Dance My Heart Around the Stars** (4:34)
12. Love Talk (4:05)
13. Save Me (3:53)
14. Green River (3:36)
The Richard Davis Sessions – previously unreleased
15. Why Can’t We All Get Along Single version (4:50)