Sunday, December 30, 2018



Song stylist Nancy Wilson’s over five decade singing career is notable for more than 70 albums, and three Grammy Awards.     Her musical vocal style has been described as jazz, blues, cabaret, and pop though she declined being relegated to any one category.  

Her singing has been characterized  as sensitive, sensual, soulful, but she always said that she simply told stories.    She was a consummate entertainer with class, beauty, elegance.   Others have observed "She sold her VOICE ... not her body ... embodied poise and respect."

I awoke to the sad news on Thursday December 13th -- that vocalist Nancy Wilson had died -- and want to remember her here.

Ms Wilson’s talents became nationally prominent beginning in the mid-1950’s, continuing until her retirement in early-2010s.   She was born February 20, 1937 in Chillicothe, Ohio south of the state’s capitol, Columbus, where she later attended high school.  She began singing as a teen, then won a talent contest with appearances on the ABC affiliate WTVN.  She entered college for a teaching degree but returned to her original talents after winning an audition to sing with Rusty Bryant’s band. She sang at local clubs, in 1956 toured Canada and the Midwest to 1958 with the band when she made her first record under Dot Recording.    

She followed jazz alto saxophonist Julian “Cannonball” Adderley’s advice and moved to New York City in 1959 where filling in for another singer at the blue Morocco earned her a regular booking.  Singing four nights a week and working days as a secretary at the New York Institute of Technology.  Capitol Records signed her in 1960 as she successfully released her first single with which she’s often identified: “Guess Who I Saw Today”.

Subsequently her career flourished with TV appearances, national coast to coast prominence and international recognition as she continued recording for American and Japanese labels.  Later years she engaged in youth education programs, hosted NPR’s Jazz Profiles from 1996 to 2005. 

My husband had recalled to me her early years during his avocational professional jazz musician years with his own groups in Columbus, Ohio.   Many years later prior to his retirement he came home from the office one day saying he had surprisingly encountered her in the hall of the local California university where he was now an administrator.  She was there to engage with that University’s Music Department and students. 

I was reminded of when working in Columbus  at NBC-TV affiliate, WLW-C, with the live daily audience participation weekday talk show and quintet that Ms Wilson had been one of the many celebrity guests who welcomed performing with our talented musicians whenever appearing in concert or at prominent clubs in town.  She was in peak popularity and renown but had returned to  provide support to a friend opening a club called The Sacred Mushroom (jazz-folk-beat-coffee house) near the Ohio State University campus.  She was a warm, gracious personable young woman who cared about others. 

Nancy Wilson has been the recipient of much recognition including NAACP Image Award – Hall of Fame Award; Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame award, Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame; was a major figure in the Civil Rights Movement with many awards; received honorary degrees; recipient of the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA) and so many more awards.   “She co-founded the Nancy Wilson Foundation, which exposes inner-city children to the country.   as noted HERE.

She was the first recipient of the United Negro College Fund Award where she sang
"These Golden Years"

She married again in 1973 and subsequently gave up singing in some venues, such as supper clubs. For the next two decades was busy with her personal and professional life – singing, family, and adjusting to the death of both parents.   In 2006 medical issues became evident, eventually some lung issues developed, also her husband died after a long illness with renal cancer. 

“On September 10, 2011, she performed on a public stage for the last time at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio” south of her birth city.    Wilson is quoted,  "I'm not going to be doing it anymore, and what better place to end it than where I started – in Ohio."

Nancy Wilson died December 13, 2018 at her home in Pioneertown near Southern California's Joshua Tree National Monument after a long battle with kidney cancer.  She was 81 years old..   

Nancy Wilson sings some more tunes in her inimitable  style........

"An Older Man Is Like An Elegant Wine" at this link since the video not readily embedded here:

"Teach Me Tonight"  John B. Williams on acoustic upright bass

"Midnight Sun" – Capitol Records 1967

"Did I Remember"    Video has pictures of lovely Nancy Wilson at various stages of her life. 

Her final album “Turned to Blue” won the Grammy Award for Best Jazz Album in 2006.

"My Life Has Turned to Blue"        A poem written by Maya Angelou is the title track.

"When Sunny Gets Blue"     1962 album "Hello Young Lovers"

Thank you, Nancy Wilson ...
... for the musical pleasure you’ve given us 
... the positive difference you've made in others lives



  1. I didn't know who Nancy Wilson was. Sounds like she made a good mark on the world with her life and music.

  2. She was the favorite artist of a dear friend of mine who introduced her to my listening pleasure. "Don't Rain on My Parade," was my favorite. She was a class act with a great set of pipes.

  3. I'll remember Ms Wilson, mostly, for her Jazz Profiles hosting on NPR. Thank you for the posting.
    Cop Car

    1. Glad you could enjoy her.

    2. Hopefully, as was the case with Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz, we'll be treated with re-runs of Jazz Profiles for years to come.
      Cop Car

    3. Yes, Marian McPartland who I’ve featured in earlier posts here was quite a talent and her NPR shows were exceptional as I would expect Nancy Wilsons’s to have been also. Hope we do have re-runs as you say.

      Lead Producer Tim Owens recalls the best of the Jazz Profiles Series and working with Ms Wilson:

  4. Oh the memories. I was living and working in NY City in 1959 and she was indeed one of a kind. I'm so glad you gave her the kudos that she deserves. Happy New Year to you and keep blogging. I enjoy your input.

    1. That would have been an exciting time in NYC.

  5. Always loved her. Thanks for this wonderful post. There was such an ease to her jazzy singing, great pacing.


    1. Yes, her voice seemed so relaxed and comfortable.

  6. Nancy Wilson has such a stunning voice. Happy New Year from up north! Bea