In Memoriam: Jazz Singer Nancy Wilson


Nancy Wilson (1937–2018)

(Photo: Gideon Lewin/Columbia/DownBeat Archives)

Jazz and r&b vocalist Nancy Wilson has died, according to a statement from her manager. Devra Hall Levy told the Associated Press that Wilson died peacefully at her home on Dec. 13 in Pioneertown, California, following a long illness. Wilson was 81.

Among her accolades were three Grammy awards and a NEA Jazz Masters fellowship in 2004.

Wilson won a Grammy in the Best Jazz Vocal Album category for her 2006 album Turned To Blue. She won a Grammy in the same category a couple of years earlier, for her 2004 album R.S.V.P. (Rare Songs, Very Personal). Additionally, she won a Grammy for “How Glad I Am,” a single and the title track from a 1964 LP (Best Rhythm & Blues Recording).

Other titles in her discography include a 1961 studio album with saxophonist Cannonball Adderly, simply titled Nancy Wilson/Cannonball Adderley; collaborations with pianist Ramsey Lewis, including Simple Pleasures (2003) and Meant To Be (2002); Love, Nancy (1994); What’s New (1982); Kaleidoscope (1971); Today—My Way (1965); and her 1960 debut, Like In Love.

Wilson was active in the civil rights movement and was among the participants in the 1965 Selma, Alabama, march. She was the recipient of a NAACP Image Award in 1998.

She also was an actress who appeared on several TV shows, and a radio broadcaster who hosted the NPR show Jazz Profiles.

Wilson was born on Feb. 20, 1937, in Chillicothe, Ohio. She earned honorary degrees from Berklee School of Music and Central State University in Ohio.

DownBeat has posted a cover story on Wilson from the Nov. 19, 1964, issue. DB

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February 2019
Terri Lyne Carrington
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