Nancy Wilson, a vocalist who is best known for singing jazz but preferred to call herself a "song stylist," died Thursday night after a long illness. She was 81. Wilson, who retired from touring in 2011, died at her home in Pioneertown, California, near Joshua Tree National Park.
Wilson was born in Chillicothe, Ohio, in 1937. She started singing at age 4, began performing professionally after a year of college, and started recording hit records soon after moving to New York City in 1959, The Associated Press reports. Her biggest commercial success was in the 1960s, when she recorded eight albums that hit the Billboard Top 20 pop charts. Her repertoire ranged from torch songs to show tunes and pop standards, but she is most associated with jazz. Wilson won two Grammys for jazz records, in 2005 and 2007, but also a Grammy for best R&B performance in 1965. The National Endowment for the Arts awarded her a "Jazz Masters Fellowship" in 2004, and the NAACP honored her with an Image award in 1998. She also appeared on several TV shows, including Hawaii Five-O and her own eponymous variety show.
Here, Wilson sings "Lush Life," from the 1967 album of the same name.
Wilson, who was married twice and divorced once, is survived by one son, two daughters, two sisters, and five grandchildren.