Photo credit: Mike Blake/Reuters
Jazz legend Nancy Wilson has passed away at the age of 81, but her incredible impact that she made on the world will live on forever.
Thanks to her father introducing her to artists like Nat King Cole, Jimmy Scott, and Billy Eckstine, Wilson developed a passion for jazz music early in life. She was leading her church choir by the age of 10 and went on to pursue music full-time after attending Ohio’s Central State College for one year.
After signing with Capitol Records, Wilson then made her debut in 1961 with the single “Guess Who I Saw Today.” She also used her platform to advocate for civil rights, telling the blog Jazz Wax in 2010:
“As an artist then, taking such a political stand came with professional risks. But it had to be done.”
In doing so, Wilson dedicated her life to activism. For her lifelong work, which included participating in the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery marches, Wilson received an NAACP Hall of Fame Image Award and was later inducted into the International Civil Rights: Walk of Fame at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site.
Over the course of her 50-year career, Wilson, who had no formal training, released over 70 albums and won three Grammy Awards. She won her first Grammy for Best Rhythm and Blues Recording for her 1964 album “How Glad I Am.” Her other two were for Best Jazz Vocal Album, in which she won in 2005 and 2007. She also hosted her own Emmy-winning variety series for NBC (“The Nancy Wilson Show”) and appeared on several television shows, including “The Cosby Show.”
Rest in power to Ms. Nancy Wilson. May her legacy live on through all those that she touched and inspired.