Jazz icon Nancy Wilson has died, aged 81

Wilson picked up three Grammy awards during her career

The jazz singer Nancy Wilson has died at the age of 81.

Wilson’s death yesterday (December 13) at her home in Pioneertown, California came after a long illness. The news of her passing was confirmed by her manager, Devra Hall Levy.

Born in Chillicothe, Ohio on February 20, 1937, Wilson’s music career kicked off in 1960 with the release of her debut album ‘Like in Love’. She would record over 70 albums during her long career, with highlights including the 2004 and 2006 albums ‘R.S.V.P. (Rare Songs, Very Personal)’ and ‘Turned to Blue’, which both won the Grammy for Best Jazz Vocal Album in 2005 and 2007 respectively.

Some of Wilson’s most famous tracks include ‘(You Don’t Know) How Glad I Am’ (which won Wilson her first-ever Grammy in 1965), ‘Guess Who I Saw Today’ and ‘Face It Girl, It’s Over’.

Away from music, Wilson was renowned as a prominent civil rights activist. She was part of the historic 1965 protests in Selma, Alabama, and was later recognised for her work in 2005 by being inducted into the International Civil Rights: Walk of Fame at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site in Atlanta, Georgia.

While arguably best known for her work in jazz, Wilson frequently referred to herself as a “song stylist” rather than aligning herself to just one genre. “I don’t put labels on it, I just sing,” she told The Los Angeles Times in 1993. “It’s all in the ear of the listener. Let them decide.”

“I have a gift for telling stories, making them seem larger than life,” she added. “I love the vignette, the plays within the song.”