Nancy Wilson

Nancy Wilson

WCSU FM Honors Jazz Singer Nancy Wilson during Women’s History Month

Ms. Wilson died in her home on Thursday, December 13, 2018 after a long illness. She was 81. 

Born in Chillicothe, Ohio, in 1937, Wilson has recounted in interviews that she started singing around age 3 or 4. "I have always just sung. I have never questioned what it is. I thank God for it and I just do it," she told Marian McPartland, host of NPR’s Piano Jazz in 1994. She never had formal training but was influenced by Dinah Washington, Nat "King" Cole, and others. Wilson says she knew at an early age what she would do for a living. 

During her decades-long career, Wilson performed jazz ballads, standards, torch songs, show tunes and pop songs. She told McPartland that she loves a song with a good story and good lyrics. A song that has a beginning, middle, and an end. After attending Central State College in Ohio (Now Central State University) for one year, she left to pursue music full time and went on to become one of the most legendary jazz singers of all time. 

From 1996 through 2005, Wilson was the host of NPR’s Jazz Profiles, a documentary series that profiled the legends and legacy of jazz. More than 190 episodes were produced. Described as a multi-talented entertainer, Wilson made guest appearances on TV variety programs and acted in several TV series; even hosting her own show from 1974-75.

The National Endowment for the Arts awarded Wilson a "Jazz Masters Fellowship" in 2004 for lifetime achievement. In 1998, she received the NAACP Image award - having been active in the civil rights movement, including the 1965 march on Selma, Ala.

Excerpted from the WCSU FM 88.9 Central State University Public Radio Quarterly Newsletter, who excerpted the article from NPR News, December 14, 2018. Copyright 2018 NPR.