Nancy Sue Wilson, the award-winning singer who lent her vocal instrument to the world for over five decades, has died at the age of 81. Wilson’s publicist confirmed that the iconic singer died at her home in Pioneertown, CA, on Thursday following a long illness. A specific cause of death hasn’t been disclosed.
Wilson was born on February 20, 1937 in Chillcote, Ohio, and began her singing journey in church. After winning a talent contest in high school, Wilson toured Ohio and later moved to New York at the recommendation of Julian Edwin “Cannonball” Adderley. She would later record several prominent albums with the acclaimed jazz alto saxophonist.
With notable songs such as “Guess Who I Saw Today,” “Face It Girl, It’s Over,” “(You Don’t Know) How Glad I Am,” “The Things We Did Last Summer,” and “He’s My Guy,” Wilson firmly etched her place in music history as an undeniable talent. She won three Grammys and charted on the Billboard Top 20. In fact, the songstress was once known as one of the best-sellers at Capitol Records, next to the Beatles.
Though primarily known as a jazz singer, Wilson actually resisted the label, preferring the term “song stylist,” according to the Washington Post.
“That’s my essence,” she told the publication at the time, “to weave words, to be dramatic.”
After a musical and acting career spanning more than six decades, she retired from live performances in 2011. She wanted “to spend all of her time with her family, especially her grandchildren,” according to her website.