Nancy Wilson

Biography

A highly successful and respected jazz and soul singer, Nancy Wilson bridges the gap between the classic pop vocal era of Peggy Lee, Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald and the belting R&B divas of today. Though Nancy Wilson has always cited the emotionally naked, androgynous vocal style of Jimmy Scott as her primary influence, her voice carries definite echoes of Dinah Washington and Sarah Vaughan. Yet Wilson also has always had a strong feeling for post-Sam Cooke soul and the tartness of her delivery carries more than an echo of the sometimes-icy Lena Horne. Young and heart-stoppingly beautiful, Wilson was discovered singing in a N.Y.C. jazz club in the late 1950s by Cannonball Adderley, who told his management at Capitol Records that they needed to scoop her up before another label did. Wilson was immediately signed and started recording for Capitol, the premier vocal label of the 1950s and '60s. She released a couple of very respectable LPs with star arranger Billy May but actually crossed over to radio and the pop charts with two small group jazz platters with her bestselling label mates (one with George Shearing (The Swinging's Mutual) and the other with Cannonball Adderley). Catapulted to the pop stratosphere, Wilson was the bestselling artist on Capitol Records' roster (beating out everyone from Nat King Cole to the Beach Boys) until the Beatles crossed the pond and eclipsed everything and everybody in their culture-changing wake. Other fine albums from this '60s period include Yesterday's Love Songs, Today's Blues and But Beautiful, a jazz ballad set led by pianist Hank Jones. In the '70s and '80s, Nancy Wilson slowly made the transition from pop star to adult contemporary soul singer. From the 1990s to the present day, Wilson returned to alternating jazz standards, quiet storm and adult contemporary ballads, while putting on a sensational jazz show in concert. The longevity of Wilson's career and the continuing strength of her voice are almost unheard of in modern pop music, though her career -- and her affinity with jazz, blues and soul -- shares many parallels with one-time Capitol labelmate Lou Rawls.
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