Yes, the sounds of Motown were alive and well at Sacred Heart University's Edgerton Center for the Performing Arts Friday night as Mary Wilson, founding member with Diana Ross and Florence Ballard, of The Supremes took to the stage. Accompanied by a lively four-piece band and talented back-up singers, Ms. Wilson belted out some of the group's most memorable hits while also demonstrating vocal prowess by crooning intimate ballads with ease.
In floor-length gowns and plenty of bling, Ms. Wilson is ever the diva. It's a title well-earned, though. Her devoted fans were there to clap along and dance in the aisles to familiar faves, “Stop! In the Name of Love,” “Baby Love” and “You Can't Hurry Love.” However, nary a sound was heard when Ms. Wilson commanded the spotlight with a sultry, jazz interpretation of Norah Jones' award-winning Don't Know Why.
Although she's introduced as “the original 'Dreamgirl,'” Ms. Wilson explained to the audience that the Broadway show and subsequent film starring Jennifer Hudson doesn't tell the Supremes' true story. "I know...because I didn't get paid,” she quipped.
Like 'Dreamgirls,' though, Ms. Wilson and Ms. Ballard were the ones who did “the oohs and ahs” behind The Supremes' lead singer, Miss Diana Ross. (Ironically, Ms. Wilson didn't mention her once during the hour and half concert.) They were relegated to the background, though I had the feeling Ms. Wilson took it all in stride, letting her inherently sunny disposition find the silver lining.
This sense of gratitude is the message Ms. Wilson conveys as a motivational speaker and philanthropist today. Yes, she is a global entertainer; however, Ms. Wilson has combined her celebrity with a commitment to do good.
Her generous spirit was evident as she reflected on Ms. Ballard's misfortune. After some turbulent years, both professionally and personally, Ms. Ballard unexpectedly passed away in 1976. In a tribute to Ms. Ballard, whom Ms. Wilson firmly believes would've eventually straightened out, she delivered the Dreamgirls' anthem, I Am Changing.
Ms. Wilson's heart-wrenching performance brought down the house.
Many long-time fans were in attendance this weekend. A small stampede clamored on the Edgerton stage when Ms. Wilson invited people onstage to sing and dance with her. They would've likely stayed for the rest of the concert had she not politely led them back to their seats.
After taking her bows, Ms. Wilson signed autographs in auditorium.
I was impressed by her talent, yes. However, I was equally struck by the delight she took in sharing her gifts with others. She's sung some of these songs for more than 50 years and yet she radiated an obvious love for entertaining. And, she so clearly appreciated those who have, in turn, supported her work for so many decades. It's no surprise that Ms. Wilson's latest CD is aptly called, “Life's Been Good to Me.”