First of all, she did write and perform Dog And Butterfly (1978), but Nancy Wilson recorded more than 70 albums and won three Grammy Awards. During her long performing career Wilson easily slipped into many genres: Blues, Jazz, R&B, Pop, Broadway and Soul, a consummate, elegant singing actor and all-around entertainer, she referred to herself as a “song stylist”. Wilson enjoyed a long, polished career, starting with her first albums in the 1960s. She possessed a warm, rich sound and vividly told a song’s story.
Influenced by Dinah Washington and Nat King Cole, Wilson covered everything from standards to Country tunes. In the swinging 1960s, she released eight bestselling albums.
The music that I sing today was the pop music of the 1960s I just never considered myself a jazz singer. I take a lyric and make it mine. I consider myself an interpreter of the lyric.
The popular single How Glad I Am brought her a Grammy Award in 1965 for Best R&B performance, and she later won Grammys for Best Jazz vocal album in 2005 for the intimate R.S.V.P (Rare Songs, Very Personal) and for Turned To Blue (2007).
She made at least 100 television appearances, and Wilson had her own series on NBC, The Nancy Wilson Show (1967–1969), which won an Emmy Award.
Wilson was the recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), Jazz Masters Award in 2004, the highest honor that the United States government bestows upon Jazz musicians. In 2005 she received the NAACP Image Awards for Best Recording Jazz Artist. She received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the NAACP. In 2005, Wilson was inducted into the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame. Wilson was a major figure in the Civil Rights Movement and participated in the 1965 march in Selma. In the 1980s, she was an early and strong supporter of AIDS awareness.
Wilson celebrated her 70th birthday by presenting a concert with guest stars at Carnegie Hall, performing Never, Never Will I Marry, I Can’t Make You Love Me and George and Ira Gershwin’s How Long Has This Been Going On?.
Her first album Like In Love! (1960) was her greatest commercial success over the following decade. She was so removed from the contemporary Rock music scene an interviewer once stumped her by asking a question about Cream, the million-selling rock trio featuring Eric Clapton.
It took me years to know what that question was about. Remember, I was constantly working, or I was travelling to perform. The 1960s for me were about work.
In the 1970s and into the new century, she continued to record regularly and perform worldwide in nightclubs, concert halls and Jazz festivals from Newport to Tokyo.
Wilson performed live for the last time at Ohio University in 2011. Wilson:
I’m not going to be doing it anymore, and what better place to end it than where I started – in Ohio. After 55 years of doing what I do professionally, I have a right to ask how long? I’m trying to retire, people.
She left this world at her home in Yuka Valley, California, after a long illness. She was 81-years-old.