Following a long battle with an undisclosed illness, the American jazz singer has died at her home in Pioneertown, California.
The prolific jazz singer has passed away after a long, celebrated and politically-engaged career leaving the musical world in mourning. The obituaries and sentiments have come flooding in. John Legend said “long live the extraordinary NANCY WILSON.” Quincy Jones shared a photo of himself with the late singer and described her as a “precious jewel of a woman.” He also mentioned being present at her Emmy-winning TV show early in his career.
Indeed – it is testament to how long Nancy Wilson had been inspiring people with her music. She burst onto the scene when she won a talent show as a teenager in Ohio, leading to a hosting role on a local show called Skyline Melodies. Later, after signing to Capitol, she released her 1959 debut album Like in Love. Over seventy albums and three Grammys later, we are left to memorialize a staggering career.
But in the same way that her songs spilled over into many genres and cultural spaces, the artist’s actions extended beyond her singing career as well. She was recognised by Martin Luther King Jr for her civil rights activism and her push for nonviolent social change. As such, she has a star on the Hollywood walk of fame as well as a place in the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame. It’s as good an accolade as any.
But it was in the ‘60s that she realized her musical power, having eight top-twenty albums in one decade. Here is a reminder of her one-of-a-kind talent, her purity of tone and her special stage presence. A 1964 live recording of “The Very Thought of You”: