Former Supremes singer Mary Wilson may arguably be past her musical prime,
but she is not one to sit at home and fritter away the hours of the day
remembering the past.
At an age when many people are telling stories of times gone by, learning
bridge for the first time or shaving a couple strokes off their golf handicap,
Wilson is living life at a pace that would dizzy a person with only half her 54
In fact, it's not a lot different from the tempo she maintained three decades ago,
when she rode the airwaves as a member of the most successful female vocal
group on the legendary Motown label.
"It's wonderful being in this phase of my life," Wilson said. "I still feel like there's
plenty for me to do. One of my daughters came to me recently and said, 'Mom
you've always been on the run,' and that's how I am. I enjoy being active."
"Active," in this case, is an understatement. If it's Monday, Wilson is probably
attending class at New York University's adult continuing education program. If
it's Wednesday, Wilson is probably at her New York home, co-hosting her radio
show on WWRL with disc jockey Crystal Holmes. If it's Friday, there's a good
chance that she's on the road belting out the lead vocals to such Supremes hits
of the '60s as "Where Did Our Love Go" and "Come See About Me."
At points in between, Wilson has found time to write her third book and first
novel, "Motor City," as well as develop a line of eyewear and greeting cards.
What accounts for the continuing high level of activity? "An optimistic outlook,"
said Mark Bego, co-author of "Motor City."
Wilson began singing with Diana Ross and Florence Ballard -- the other
Supremes -- back when the girls were in their teens. They were signed to
Motown in 1961 and shaped into glamorous, internationally famous
figureheads of the Motown sound, an experience that allowed Wilson to tour the
world and enjoy the success that comes with a string of #1 hits.
"We met all the presidents in different countries," Wilson said. "We were like
real, live Cinderellas. We were like the American Dream come true. We worked
hard, we learned our craft, went to the right record company for us and they
pushed us, believed in us and we became a success."
A fan catching her in concert these days can expect to hear Wilson sing lead on
a setlist comprised of about 75 percent Supremes songs -- including such #1
hits as "Stop! In the Name of Love" and
HREF="http://www.addict.com/music/Supremes,_The/Someday_We'll_Be_Tog ether.ram">"Someday We'll Be Together"
ether.ram">"Someday We'll Be Together"(RealAudio excerpt) -- and
25 percent rock songs that she said run the gamut from the Rolling Stones'
"Satisfaction" to Sting's "Fields of Gold."
"I've been singing those [Supremes] songs since 1964, almost on a day-to-day
basis," she said. "But it's still wonderful, because before I didn't sing the leads
on them. So, for me, it's almost like they're new because I'm doing this new part
Fans curious to read her first foray into the fictional arena (her first two books
were autobiographical) probably will not be greatly disoriented by the subject
matter. "Motor City" is a murder mystery set in Detroit, revolving around an R&B
record label that rose to prominence in the 1960s. It includes a girl group trio
called the Elations and -- maybe here's where the fiction comes in -- features
the murder of a record label president named Harry Stone.
Wilson's co-author, Mark Bego, whose resume includes biographies of Michael
Jackson, Martha Reeves and a recently completed, unauthorized tome on
"Titanic" star Leonardo DiCaprio, said he and Wilson were hit with the
inspiration for "Motor City" while driving to a meeting with a publisher.
" 'Motor City' came about as an idea we had when we were driving in the car,"
Bego said. "We were listening to the O.J. trial on the radio on the way to
meeting with a publisher, and we looked at each other and said let's make it a
murder mystery. And then we said let's murder the record company president."
Though the book is fictional, the character that readers will point to as most
closely resembling Wilson goes by the name of Cheryl Lamour. Bego
acknowledged that he generated some of the ideas for the Lamour character by
spending time with Wilson.
"We bounced things off each other and then we'd write separate pieces and put
them together like a giant patchwork quilt," he said. "Sometimes I'd get the
ideas for Mary's character from Mary herself. We'd be out and she'd say some
funny retort at a cocktail party and I'd run off and write it down on a napkin."
Far from burning her out, Wilson's full schedule is indicative of the kind of
person she is, Bego said.
"She's got a lot of very creative ideas, a wealth of experience," he explained.
"She's a marvelous creative entity to work with, not just a singer, not just an
artist, she's a Renaissance woman."