By ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS
A couple days ago, I found myself humming along to a Supremes song. Then I did what everyone does today, in the age of the internet: I logged onto YouTube, found a music video and lost myself in some vintage footage of the 1960s supergroup performing some of their greatest hits.
It was a soulful trip down memory lane, and I lingered online for some time, soaking up images of Diana Ross, Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard performing much-loved, high-energy favorites such as “Stop! In the Name of Love” and “Baby Love.”
Hours later, in an eerie stroke of coincidence, I learned that singer Mary Wilson had died that same day at age 76. Ms. Wilson was one of the group’s original members, and the news sent chills down my spine. The timing was uncanny. It was the end of an era, and I felt deep sorrow.
For me, the news that we lost Mary was personal. Years ago, I had the rare opportunity to spend time with her when we connected by chance at the Harbor View Hotel in Martha’s Vineyard where we were both staying. We spent an entire afternoon together and she regaled me with stories from her illustrious career in the entertainment business. We talked about collaboration on a TV show from her Las Vegas location, as well as politics, business and global traveling. We laughed, and we connected on a personal and spiritual level. Serendipity, perhaps. All I know is that it was unforgettable.
Mary was a warmhearted woman with an incredible soul and a magnetism that matched her amazing talent. The music she and her bandmates produced as The Supremes brought immeasurable joy to millions of people.
In the days since her passing, I have reflected on the lessons we can all learn from Mary Wilson’s trailblazing life. And there are many.
First of all, time is short. Never wait to cherish the people who make your life special. Too often, we fail to appreciate the people we admire and respect until they are gone, and then it is too late.
It is so essential that we celebrate and cherish the time we have with the unique people who make this world a more beautiful, happy and joyous place through their God-given talents. Music has the power to transcend and create connections between people and to lift us up in the times when we need it most.
When life seems grim and the future looks bleak, an inspiring lyric and a catchy tune is often all we need to turn things around. In our moments of greatest joy, we express happiness through the celebration of music, a universal language. Mary’s passing reminded me of this.
Also, Mary’s passing is a stark reminder that America’s world influence is not solely derived from our democracy and national principles. Our global impact is also rooted in the sheer genius of our people. There is no country in the world that has our power to effect change and to impact lives through the creativity of entertainment.
As I reflect on Mary Wilson and the legacy of her amazing life, I am reminded that her talent, success and bold determination to blaze new paths are representative of those elements that make America truly special. This is a unique country where people of talent and brilliance can share their gifts with the world, not just with their immediate audience. They can transcend borders and truly lift up people all across the world.
As we say goodbye to Mary, I will continue to celebrate her legacy of love, life and music. The memory of her joyful energy and that special day we shared long ago will always remain in my heart.
To celebrate and commemorate her astounding life, I encourage you to play one of her CDs or call up a song by The Supremes on YouTube. Take a moment to listen to this impactful, creative woman at work: It will bring a smile to your face as you escape into yesteryear.
Thank you, Mary, for the beautiful and everlasting gift of your musical genius. Your timeless legacy will live on forever.