Flowers were placed this morning at the Hollywood Boulevard star of legendary singer Nancy Wilson who died on Thursday at her Pioneertown, Calif. home at age 81.
Wilson, who had been suffering from a lenghty illness, was a fan favorite who covered practically everything from jazz standards to the soul hit “Little Green Apples” and in the 1960s released eight albums that reached the Top 20 Billboard pop charts.
Reportedly influenced by Dinah Washington, Nat “King” Cole, Sarah Vaughn and many other stars, Wilson was an elegant and sometimes underrated singer who was best known for her breakthrough song “Guess Who I Saw Today” and the 1964 hit “(You Don’t Know) How Glad I Am,” the latter drawing upon upon Broadway, pop and jazz.
Wilson never identified her singing style within a single category, instead referring to herself as a “song stylist.” She told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2010 that, “The music that I sing today was the pop music of the 1960s. I just never considered myself a jazz singer. I do not do runs and—you know—I take a lyric and make it mine. I consider myself an interpreter of the lyric.”
Among Wilson’s dozens of albums was a popular collaboration with Julian “Cannonball” Adderley, “Nancy Wilson/Cannonball Adderley,” which was recorded in a relatively small setting and would become a favorite jazz release. Other best-selling albums included “Broadway—My Way,” “Lush Life,” “How Glad I Am” and “Today My Way.”
Wilson won a Grammy in 1965 for the R&B inspired “How Glad I Am,” and later would receive Grammys for best jazz vocal for the 2005 album “R.S.V.P. (Rare Songs, Very Personal), and in 2007 for “Turned So Blue.”
The National Endowment for the Arts in 2004 awarded Wilson a “Jazz Masters Fellowship” for lifetime achievement in music. Wilson was frequently seen on television and in film, most notably in “Hawaii Five-O,” “Police Story,” “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” “The Cosby Show,” the Robert Townshend comedy “Meteor Man” and for many years hosted NPR’s “Jazz Profiles” series. Her popular 1970s variety series “The Nancy Wilson Show” received an Emmy Award.
Wilson was active in the Civil Rights Movement, including the Selma march of 1965, and received an NAACP Image Award in 1998 and in 2005 received the organization’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
The Wilson family has announced that no funeral will take place. Instead, a celebration of life is expected to take place in February 2019, corresponding with the month of her birth.
Wilson was married twice, first to drummer Kenny Davis whom she divorced in 1970, and later to Wiley Burton who died in 2008. Wilson is survived by a son, two daughters, two sisters and five grandchildren.