- NAME: Nancy Wilson
- OCCUPATION: Singer, Television Personality
- BIRTH DATE: February 20, 1937 (Age: 77)
- Did You Know?: Nancy Wilson sang a charting remake of Bonnie Raitt's heartrending hit "I Can't Make You Love Me."
- EDUCATION: Central State College
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Chillicothe, Ohio
- ZODIAC SIGN: Pisces
Best Known For
Nancy Wilson is an award-winning song stylist with a decades-long career, known for traversing genres that include classic pop, R&B and jazz.
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Born on February 20, 1937, in Chillicothe, Ohio, Nancy Wilson established a singing career as a youth, going on to record her debut Like in Love and working with the likes of jazz great Cannonball Adderley. The Grammy-winning vocalist has released scores of albums over the decades in the worlds of pop, jazz and soul, scoring hits like "Guess Who I Saw Today" and also establishing a TV career.
"When I think of me and the humor I use in my songs, much relates to Dinah [Washington]'s approach. She was of the song, talk-singing the story—and having a ball. It's one thing to sing. It's another thing to have fun doing it."
"I feel that a performer owes the audience what it bought in the first place. You cannot shirk that responsibility. I don't care how many times you've done an act, each time you go out it is supposed to be like the first time."
"I'm not a show business personality. That whole show biz life is fine, but it's not what I do. I sing. I enjoy that while I'm doing it, but all by itself it does not sustain me."
"I didn't want to go out on the national level until I knew who I was as a person. I resisted the pull as long as possible. I knew that show business was not the greatest thing for your personal life. So I waited until I was sure."
"If the material doesn't have feeling and warmth, I don't want to do it ... My strongest suit is the big ballad."
Nancy Wilson was born on February 20, 1937, in Chillicothe, Ohio, though she grew up not far from Columbus. She was the oldest of six siblings and began singing at the age of 4, receiving great encouragement from her family and influenced by the sounds of "Little" Jimmy Scott, Dinah Washington, Lavern Baker and Nat King Cole, among others. Having gained experience singing in church, Wilson landed a gig performing twice a week as a teen on her own local television show, Skyline Melody.
She later studied at Central State College, thinking of becoming an educator, but opted instead to follow her passion for song. As a North American touring artist, Wilson met famed jazz saxophonist Cannonball Adderley, who gave her advice on the shaping of her career. She moved to New York in 1959 and quickly was able to secure a recording deal with Capitol Records, with Adderley's manager John Levy taking Wilson on as a client as well.
Wilson made her album debut with Like in Love (1959), followed by Something Wonderful the following year. She became one of the biggest selling acts of the time with songs that included the string-laden, testifiyin' "(You Don't Know) How Glad I Am," which was a Top 20 pop and No. 2 adult contemporary hit. After working with the George Shearing Quintet and conductor/composer Billy May, she and Adderley joined forces for a 1962 album which featured the R&B gem "Save Your Love for Me."
Cultivating the image of a poised yet passionate sophisticate, Wilson is known for her distinct, nuanced vocals. She has presented tunes that have pointed spoken sections as seen with "Guess Who I Saw Today" and "I'll Get Along Somehow." The stylist has recorded dozens of albums over the years, eventually switching from Capitol to Columbia, and making an impact on classic pop, soul, jazz and adult contemporary audiences with a captivating stage presence. Her work in the first decade of the 2000s saw her collaborate on two-full length recordings with pianist Ramsey Lewis along with a bevy of other artists on later outings.
Wilson had her own variety series in the '60s, the Emmy-winning The Nancy Wilson Show, and has also made appearances in a variety of other programs, including The Ed Sullivan Show, Hawaii Five-O, The Carol Burnett Show, Sinbad and The Arsenio Hall Show. (Hall had gotten his break opening for Wilson during one of her tours.)
By early 2014, Wilson had received multiple Grammy Award nominations and won three, including trophies for best rhythm & blues recording for "How Glad I Am" and best jazz vocal album prizes for R.S.V.P. (Rare Songs, Very Personal) (2004) and Turned to Blue (2006). Wilson has also won the 2002 George Foster Peabody Award for her NPR radio show, Jazz Profiles, a series that ran from the mid-1990s to 2005.
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They make music with instruments they were born with - their voices. Gifted vocalists have entertained audiences across musical genres from the tour de force arias of Luciano Pavarotti to the classic crooning of Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett to the soulful vocals of artists like Aretha Franklin and Mahalia Jackson. With their powerful lyricism, singers like Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson and Bruce Springsteen became poet laureates of American music while artists including Joan Baez and Joe Strummer used their voices to prompt social change while they entertained. Rockers from Elvis Presley to The Beatles to Kurt Cobain helped define their generations through their songs while icons like Michael Jackson, Cher and Whitney Houston shaped pop culture with their larger-than-life voices and personas. See these and more famous singers who have struck a chord in musical history.
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