Nancy Wilson dead at 81

The pop, R&B and hip hop worlds are in mourning.

The prolific and influential jazz singer Nancy Wilson has died.

Wilson, who was 81, died last Thursday at her home in Pioneertown, California. According to her manager, Devra Hall Levy, she had been ill for some time, the New York Times reported.

Contemporary artists from pop, R&B and hip hop paid public tribute to Wilson, whose influence went far beyond the jazz world—as Genius notes, Prodigy, Erykah Badu, The Notorious BIG and Wu-Tang Clan, among others, have sampled her music.


Wilson, who was born in Chillicothe, Ohio in 1937, started performing professionally when she was a teenager. She sang at nightclubs and in touring bands before moving to New York City in 1959 to further her career.

Her 1962 collaborative album with saxophonist Cannonball Adderley became a jazz touchstone, while her 1964 album How Glad I Am won a Grammy for best R&B recording. She released more than 70 albums over the course of a five-decade-long career, and besides music, was also a civil rights advocate and a radio and television host.

RIP, Nancy Wilson. Listen to “The Masquerade is Over” with Cannonball Adderley:


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