Music Legend Nancy Wilson Dies at 81

by Donicia A. Hodge

The iconic, stylish and dynamic vocalist Nancy Wilson has died at the age of 81.  According to Deadline, Wilson’s publicist confirmed that Wilson died at her home in Pioneertown, Calif., on Thursday from a long illness.  No specific cause of death has been disclosed as of yet.

Nancy Sue Wilson was born in Chillicothe, Ohio, on Feb. 20, 1937, and she grew up in Columbus, where her father was an iron worker and her mother was a domestic. Her parents divorced, but lived within a few blocks of each other. She said  her mother, stepmother, and grandmother  were “rocks” who encouraged the vocal talent she first displayed in the church choir.

She launched a career as an R&B singer with the 1961 single “Guess Who I Saw Today.”  One of her biggest hits came in 1964 with “(You Don’t Know) How Glad I Am.” It landed her a Grammy Award for Best R&B recording.

She later moved to singing jazz and torch songs and eventually snagged two more Grammy Awards in 2005 and 2007, respectively.

Nancy Wilson famously referred to herself as a “song stylist,” because she refused to be pigeon-holed into one specific music category. “The music that I sing today was the pop music of the 1960s,” she told The San Francisco Chronicle in 2010.

In the 1990s, Wilson became the host of National Public Radio’s “Jazz Profiles,” a Peabody Award-winning documentary series featuring jazz legends and the music legacy.

She was married twice: first to drummer Kenny Dennis, whom she divorced in 1970; and to Wiley Burton, who died in 2008. Wilson is survived by her three children and five grandchildren.  No funeral services will be held, but her family will pay tribute to the iconic entertainer and hold a celebration of her life.


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