Nancy Wilson’s sublime artistry rippled well beyond jazz and torch songs

Beyond jazz and R&B, Nancy Wilson, pictured in 2007, also had a special touch with pop songs.
(Rick Maiman / Associated Press)

Nancy Wilson sealed her fate in jazz and R&B and the Great American Songbook, as “a song stylist with an unmistakable stamp of icy hauteur,” as the writer James Gavin perfectly put it in a Facebook post memorializing her.

Wilson died Thursday at 81 at her home in Pioneertown, Calif., after a long illness.

As celebrated as Wilson was, her forays into pop music beginning in the mid-1960s are arguably underappreciated. She herself shrugged off easy labels for the kind of music she performed in a Grammy-winning career that spanned five decades.

“I just never considered myself a jazz singer. I take a lyric and make it mine. I consider myself an interpreter of the lyric,” she once told the San Francisco Chronicle.


Here are six songs that showcase Wilson’s sublime mastery, no matter the genre.

“Uptight (Everything’s Alright)”

“Can’t Take My Eyes Off You”


“Ode to Billie Joe”

“And I Love Him”

“Son of a Preacher Man”

“Mr. Bojangles”


Follow me on Twitter @jreedwrites.

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