Grammy-winning jazz singer Nancy Wilson dies at 81

The Grammy-winning musician and song stylist passed away in her home in Pioneertown, California; her manager and publicist have confirmed.

Grammy-winning jazz singer Nancy Wilson dies at 81

Legendary jazz singer Nancy Wilson has passed away at the age of 81. The Grammy-winning musician and song stylist passed away in her home in Pioneertown, California. She was suffering from a longtime illness, her publicist and manager Devra Hall Levy told The Associated Press late on Thursday night. 

Wilson won her first Grammy Award for the best rhythm and blues recording for the album 'How Glad I Am' in 1964. She went on to be featured as a "grand diva" of jazz in a 1992 edition of Essence. In the same year, she also received the Whitney Young Jr. Award from the Urban League. 

Singer Nancy Wilson poses with her Grammy for Best Jazz Vocal Album for 'Turned To Blue' in the press room at the 49th Annual Grammy Awards at the Staples Center on February 11, 2007 in Los Angeles, California.
Singer Nancy Wilson poses with her Grammy for Best Jazz Vocal Album for 'Turned To Blue' in the press room at the 49th Annual Grammy Awards at the Staples Center on February 11, 2007 in Los Angeles, California.

Her health had started deteriorating in 2006. Then just two years later, Wilson was hospitalized after her lungs collapsed. At the time, the then 71-year-old singer recovered from the incident. Wilson’s lung was being reinflated at Hi-Desert Medical Center in Joshua Tree and she was in good spirits, Devra Levy told The Associated Press at the time. Reports said that she was at home when she started experiencing pain and was taken to the hospital by her husband, Wiley Burton.

She was released from the hospital soon after and reportedly told the public at the time "I am home and I am doing fine. There was no surgery, none of that. All is well." Tragedy struck even harder when Will Burton died the same year. Burton died in their California home after a long battle with renal cancer. He was 66 at the time and had undergone chemotherapy the same year.

Wilson reportedly resisted being referred to as a jazz singer and liked to call herself a  "song stylist". In an interview in 2010, shortly before she decided to retire from touring, she said, "The music that I sing today was the pop music of the 1960s,” she told The San Francisco Chronicle in 2010. “I just never considered myself a jazz singer. I do not do runs and — you know. I take a lyric and make it mine. I consider myself an interpreter of the lyric.”

Wilson was also known for her contributions to television, film and radio. She was credited with working in 'Hawaii Five-O,' 'Police Story,' and the spoof of  'Meteor Man', 'The Big Score' by Robert Townsend. She also hosted the 'Jazz Profiles' series for NPR and had her own show on NBC called 'The Nancy Wilson Show' that aired in 1967.