How glad we were to know Nancy

Observer senior writer

Saturday, December 15, 2018

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What would Sunday radio in Jamaica be without a Nancy Wilson song? Hard to imagine. The jazz stylist, who died in California on December 13 at age 81, was beloved in Jamaica where she performed several times.

The feisty vocalist last performed here at the Jamaica Jazz & Blues Festival in 2010. She was among a group of female singers Jamaicans fell in love with during the 1950s and 1960s, others being Dinah Washington and country singer Skeeter Davis.

Wilson is on record saying she was greatly influenced by Washington, a troubled artiste best known for the song What A Difference A Day Makes. Wilson's catalogue of hits was extensive; Jamaicans are most acquainted with the 1964 jazz standard (You Don't Know) How Glad I Am and I Wanna Be With You.

Disc jockey Michael Thompson is a major Nancy Wilson fan. KOOL Memories, his four-hour Sunday show on KOOL FM, regularly features Wilson favourites such as Never Less Than Yesterday, I Wanna Be With You and Afterthoughts.

He told the Jamaica Observer that singers like Nancy Wilson are fast becoming extinct.

“She had a distinct voice; not many singers have that today. In her day, the arrangement of the music was superior and she helped make it even more special,” said Thompson.

Wilson performed in Jamaica during the 1960s at the peak of her career. She followed the path of Billie Holliday, Ella Fitzgerald and Washington, whose sultry phrasings broke down America's racial barriers, and endeared them to jazz and pop audiences.

Interestingly, Wilson disliked being categorised. Though she was most popular in jazz circles, she was happy covering pop songs like The Beatles' Yesterday and Reach Out (I'll Be There) by The Four Tops.

In Jamaica, the dancehall generation admired Wilson. Sanchez covered 'How Glad I Am; sound system selectors used that song to 'kill' rivals.

Nancy Wilson was a three-time Grammy winner. Her last came for Turned to Blue which won Best Jazz Album in 2007.

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