Jazz singer Gloria Lynne, whose roller-coaster career took her from hits like “I Wish You Love” in the 1960s to near-obscurity and then rediscovery, died on Oct. 8 in a Newark, N.J., hospital. She was 83.
The cause of death was a heart attack, said her son Richard Alleyne, a rock arranger known professionally as P.J. Allen.
Lynne was lauded for her interpretations of songs in a wide variety of styles, and “I Wish You Love,” her best-known recording, scored high on the charts in 1964. But two decades later, when she was living in West Hollywood and working for a bank, she felt forgotten by the music world.
“She lost her confidence,” Alleyne said, “but she never lost her voice.”
When she came back to the business, critics agreed. In a 2002 review of her performance in New York at Feinstein’s at the Regency, Daily Variety said, “This is a weathered and comfortably confident performer, and she demonstrated full command of a lyric and its content.
“Add a sturdy stage presence and an uncommonly warm bond with her listeners.”
She was born Gloria Mai Wilson on Nov. 23, 1929, in Harlem, and grew up singing in church and other community venues. In the early 1950s she won first prize at a talent night at the famed Apollo Theater in Harlem. Her first solo album, “Miss Gloria Lynne,” was released in 1958 and included standards such as “April in Paris” and “Bye Bye Blackbird,” backed by a small, swinging group of musicians.
Her rendition of “I Wish You Love” was done in a polar-opposite musical setting, with lush strings. And later in her career, she wandered into pop, soul and even disco. She got national exposure through television, notably in a Harry Belafonte special.
Lynne never had a blockbuster hit, though she consistently won favor with critics. “If greatness and fame have eluded Lynne,” wrote jazz reviewer Leonard Feather in The Times in 1981, “it cannot be for want of talent.”
What held her back, said her son, was a combination of factors, including shifts in record company ownership, management troubles and personal problems having to do with relationships. Lynne’s career spiraled downward to a point, in the mid-1980s, when she stopped performing altogether.
She got a job as a data processor for Bank of America in downtown Los Angeles, but fellow bus commuters and co-workers sometimes recognized her. “They would say, ‘Aren’t you Gloria Lynne? What are you doing here?’” Alleyne said. After about a year of not performing, a promoter persuaded her to appear at a concert in New York. With her confidence renewed, she restarted her career and continued to play clubs and other venues until near the end.
In a radio interview earlier this year, Lynne said that everything she did as a vocalist went back to her childhood roots. “People would say to me,” she said on WBGO in Newark, ‘Gloria, you need to do a gospel album.’ I said, ‘What I do is gospel.’
“Everything I sing is gospel.”
Besides her son, Lynne is survived by a brother.