Iconic American jazz singer Nancy Wilson dies at 81

Junie Sihlangu
Dec 14, 2018
08:45 A.M.

Nancy Wilson passed away after a long illness at her home in Pioneertown, California. The sad news was shared by her manager and publicist Devra Hall Levy.


The iconic jazz singer passed away on Thursday at the age of 81. At the time of her death, Wilson had already retired from touring in 2011.

Nancy Wilson was a Grammy-winning singer who lived in Pioneertown, a California desert community near Joshua Tree National Park. Her musical influences were Dinah Washington, Nat “King” Cole, and many others.

In the 1960s she released eight albums that reached the top 20 on Billboard’s pop charts. Some of her well-known songs were “Guess Who I Saw Today” and “(You Don’t Know) How Glad I Am.”


For more on this story go to our Twitter account @amomama_usa. Wilson was a musician who didn’t like being boxed into a single music category and genre, especially jazz.

She referred to herself as a “song stylist.” In 2010, in an interview with The San Francisco Chronicle she said:

“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.”


In 2005, Wilson won a Grammy for best jazz vocal album in for “R.S.V.P (Rare Songs, Very Personal).” She won another Grammy in 2007 for “Turned to Blue.”

In 2004, the musician was awarded a “Jazz Masters Fellowship” for lifetime achievement by The National Endowment for the Arts. She wasn’t only famous for her music but also her acting.

She’s appeared on “Hawaii Five-O,” “Police Story,” and the Robert Townshend spoof “Meteor Man.” For years she also hosted NPR’s “Jazz Profiles” series.

Source: Wikipedia.org

Source: Wikipedia.org

Wilson was a diverse woman who was active in the civil rights movement. Notably, she was a part of the Selma march that took part in 1965.

Source: Wikipedia.org

Source: Wikipedia.org

In 1998, she received an NAACP Image Award. She was married twice, firstly to drummer Kenny Dennis, whom she divorced in 1970; and then to Wiley Burton, who died in 2008.


Her wish was that there would be no funeral service. Instead, she wanted a celebration of her life which will most likely be held in February, the month of her birth.


Nancy Sue Wilson was born on February 20, 1937. She had a career that spanned over five decades and began in the mid-1950s.

Source: Wikimedia.org

Source: Wikimedia.org

Wilson is survived by her son, Kacy Dennis; daughters Samantha Burton and Sheryl Burton; sisters Karen Davis and Brenda Vann and her five grandchildren.

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