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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » Dreamgirl & Supreme Faith, Updated Edition: My Life as a Supreme » User review

Reflections of the way life used to be/reflections of the love you took from me...

  • May 2, 2010
Rating:
+3
Here we have a two-in-one package deal.  Supreme Supreme Mary Wilson pours her heart out for the whole world to hear her sad song sung with utmost passion.  First a brief overview: The first published work--entitled Dreamgirl: My Life As A Supreme and published in 1986--documents Wilson's early life and career with singing partners Diana Ross and Florence Ballard while the latter--initially bearing the title, "Supreme Faith: Someday We'll Be Together" and published in the year 1990, examines Wilson's undertaking of the role of group leader upon Diana Ross's departure from the group in 1970.  Both books spotlight Mary Wilson's life on-and off-the-stage in the most brutally honest manner possible.  But for any reader who has never been a celebrity and/or who aspires to gain such supposed glory, you're in for a real shock!   

Throughout Dreamgirl, Wilson delivers her musical and emotional ties with Diana Ross and Florence Ballard as the three divas staged the pioneering girl group act from the early to late 1960s as members of one of the most historic record labels in Detroit Michigan, Motown USA: The Sound of Young America. Bearing the background role, Wilson expresses her immense grief towards the outlook of spoiled rotten brat Princess Diana Ross (and Ross's often-not-so-Prince Charming Berry Gordy, Jr.), and how the group went from being a trio to a solo act with two backup singers in a short amount of time.  One of these singers, the late Florence Ballard, received an even shorter end of the stick than did Mary Wilson.  Owning an immensely soulful vocal range--even taking on the role of lead singer on several of The Supremes early non-hit records during their years as The Primettes in the late '50s/early early '60s--Florence was shooed out of the spotlight once Ross's flamboyant flair took over both the stage and the conscience of Motown founder and director, Berry Gordy, Jr.  In many ways, the lack of airtime effected Florence Ballard more so than Mary Wilson--to the point where Ballard became vocal in another manner, resulting in her being letting go from the group all together in 1968 (with Cindy Birdsong as her replacement).  The headline of this review is quoted from the chorus of the musical finale containing the classic Supreme lineup of Ballard, Ross, and Wilson, simply entitled "Reflections." It was also at this point when the group underwent a symbolic name change (like many other Motown Acts such as [Smokey Robinson &] The Miracles, and Martha [Reeves] & The Vandellas) featuring Diana Ross's name in the headline.  Bitterness on both Ballard and Wilson's behalf grew to the point where Wilson remained Ballard's only friend and companion (stating in one of her pictoral descriptions in this book that "many people thought Florence should have been the center of The Supremes"--right up until Ballard's tragic demise in the '70s.  

Which is somewhat documented in the sequel, Supreme Faith: Someday We'll Be Together.  The latter half of that work's title acknowledges the swanson of the Diana Ross-era of The Supremes. Upon her 1970 departure from the group to begin her solo career, Mary Wilson remained the sole original member of the acclaimed trio (a fate that other fellow Motowners like Otis Williams of The Temptations and later Abdul "Duke" Fakir of The Four Tops, would receive).  Under virtually her own discretion, Wilson held the group together for another seven years--with various members (typically undertaking the role of lead singer) coming and going.  Hits such as "Up The Ladder (To The Roof)", "Stoned Love", and "Nathan Jones" were dished out to minor popularity, but the group chemistry had essentially faded.  It was during this time that Mary Wilson had hopes of resigning Florence Ballard--to reignite her musical passion and fire, allowing her the proper chance at the role of frontman Ballard truly deserved.  The only person who wouldn't hear of it was Berry Gordy, Jr.--who by that time had shifted the entire Motown operation to Hollywood, CA.  One of the heavier of the heavy elements of this second chapter of Mary Wilson's intertwined musical career and personal life recalls Florence Ballard's steady decline--including her impoverished lifestyle, topped off by excessive drinking, massive weight gain, and empty pockets.  In 1976, the world lost Florence Ballard to the above symptoms, and within one year, The Supremes went with her.  However, Mary Wilson was losing it too.  Undergoing an unexpectedly domestically abusive marriage, Wilson's personal life went downhill by the day, although unlike her late singing partner, Mary marched onward and held her own.  Even suffering the utmost tragic loss of her youngest son (and favorite child) in 1994 to a self-induced car accident, Mary held her high and managed to bounce back.  Considering how much Mary Wilson had endured through that point her life, it would only seem natural for her to carry on through thick and thin.  

Whether or not you're a Motown enthusiast, music lover, or a member of the Baby Boom Generation, Mary Wilson's two-part autobiography provides a soul-searching, eye-opening, and, yes, heartwrenching experience for readers with accepting minds.  If you're a man, this will undoubtedly give you a 100% accurate overview of life from a female perspective.  Looking beautiful on the outside may not necessarily make you feel similarly on the inside.  From start to finish, Mary Wilson writes ever word as though the depicted events occurred yesterday.  As my all-time favorite Supreme, her determination to make it work for herself and the people around her is most admirable.  Having seen her interviewed for various television specials, her articulate, insightful analyses are brought to life with equal sincerity as they are to the page.  And, yes, she is the most beautiful dancer, and singer, in the group the world has come to know as The Supremes!         

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Dreamgirl: My Life as a Supreme is the name of a 1986 autobiography  that features the memoirs of Mary Wilson, one of the founding members of Motown singing trio The Supremes. It was a New York Times Best Seller for months, and remains one of the best-selling rock-and-roll  autobiographies of all time. The title of the book is a reference to Dreamgirls, a 1981 Broadway musical loosely based on the lives and careers of the Supremes. Dreamgirl covers the Diana Ross-led years of the group. In 1990 Wilson penned a follow-up entitled Supreme Faith: Someday We'll Be Together that covers Wilson's life since 1970. Both books and a new afterword were included in a combined volume titled Dreamgirl & Supreme Faith: My Life as a Supreme in 2000.
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