Jazz lovers and the music world, in general, is joined in mourning after news that legendary vocalist Nancy Wilson has passed away. The Grammy Award-winning Ohio native had one of the genre’s most distinctive singing styles and a body of work that spanned over the course of decades.
Born in Chillicothe, Ohio, in 1937, Wilson has recounted in interviews that she started singing around age 3 or 4.
“I have always just sung. I have never questioned what it is. I thank God for it and I just do it,” she told Marian McPartland, host of NPR’s Piano Jazz in 1994.
She never had formal training but was influenced by Dinah Washington, Nat “King” Cole, and others. Wilson says she knew at an early age what she would do for a living.
During her decades-long career, Wilson performed jazz ballads, standards, torch songs, show tunes and pop songs. She told McPartland that she loves a song with a good story and good lyrics. A song that has a beginning, middle and an end.
After attending Central State College in Ohio for one year, she left to pursue music full time. She had been touring continuously in her 20s when she met saxophonist Cannonball Adderley. He suggested she move to New York and in 1959 she did. Many successful singles and albums followed.
Wilson won three Grammys and recorded well over 70 albums, with one of those awards coming by way of her 2006 album, Turned To Blue. She also worked alongside the aforementioned Adderley and jazz legend Ramsey Lewis as well.
Nancy Wilson was 81.