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Nancy Wilson, Legendary 3-Time Grammy Winner and NPR ‘Jazz Profiles" Host Dies at 81
(Published: December 14, 2018)

NEW ORLEANS - Nancy Wilson, a three-time Grammy Award winner who called herself a "song stylist," died Thursday after a long illness at her home in Pioneertown, California according to her manager Devra Hall Levy. Wilson was 81.

Throughout her musical career Wilson cultivated an image of a poised yet passionate sophisticate known for her distinct, nuanced vocals. She presented tunes with pointed spoken sections such as with "Guess Who I Saw Today" which debut in 1960 with Capitol records, and "I'll Get Along Somehow." Capitol issued five Nancy Wilson albums in two years. Initially focusing on rhythm and blues, under Cannonball Adderley's influence, she moved away from R&B and embraced jazz and torch songs. Their 1962 collaboration "Nancy Wilson and Cannonball Adderley" helped propel her to the top, and she had her breakout hit, "Tell Me the Truth," in 1963. This brought her a gig at New York's Coconut Grove, the premier night club in America, the following year, and she became a star, charting 11 songs in the Hot 100, and four albums in Billboard's Top LP between 1964 and 1965.

In 1964, Wilson won her first Grammy for best R&B recording for her LP "How Glad I Am." She would later receive two more Grammys for Best Jazz Vocal Grammy Awards for her albums "R.S.V.P. (Rare Songs, Very Personal)" (2005) and "Turned to Blue" (2007).

New Orleans Jazz vocalist Stephanie Jordan who performed a musical tribute honoring the music of Nancy Wilson at the 2017 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival said "Nancy Wilson is an icon of jazz. I was honored to be able to perform my rendition of Nancy's music while she was still with us. I was even more grateful to have the opportunity to let her know that I would be doing so. I will forever cherish that private conversation. She will truly be missed but never forgotten"


Wilson was a song stylist having recorded dozens of albums over the years, making an impact on classic pop, soul, jazz and adult contemporary audiences with a captivating stage presence. Not just a singer, Wilson had her own variety series in the '60s, the Emmy-winning The Nancy Wilson Show, and also made appearances in a variety of other programs, including The Ed Sullivan Show, The Carol Burnett Show, Sinbad and The Arsenio Hall Show as well as acting on "The Cosby Show" and dramatic series like "The F.B.I." and "Hawaii 5-O".

In the 1990s, she became the host of National Public Radio's "Jazz Profiles," a documentary series featuring jazz legends and the music legacy.


In 1998, Wilson received the NAACP Lifetime Achievement Award - having been active in the civil rights movement, including the 1965 march on Selma, Ala. The National Endowment for the Arts awarded Wilson a "Jazz Masters Fellowship" in 2004 for lifetime achievement.

Other honors included a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame; International Civil Rights Walk of Fame inductee, United Negro College Fund Trumpet Award, and the Oprah Winfrey Legends Award.

The Associated Press reports that in 2007, when she turned 70, "Wilson was the guest of honor at a Carnegie Hall gala. 'After 55 years of doing what I do professionally, I have a right to ask how long? I'm trying to retire, people,' she said with a laugh before leaving the stage to a standing ovation."

Nancy was married twice, to drummer Kenny Dennis from 1960-70. They had one child. She married the Presbyterian minister Wiley Burton in 1973. Married 35 years until his death in 2008, they had two children.

According to a family statement, Wilson did not want a funeral. A celebration of her life will be held later.

More Information: http://www.StephanieJordan.com

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