Monday, February 21, 2011

Happy Birthday: Nancy Wilson & Nina Simone

Nancy Wilson (born February 20, 1937) is a singer with more than 70 albums, and three Grammy Awards. She has been labeled a singer of blues, jazz, cabaret and pop; a "consummate actress"; and "the complete entertainer." The title she prefers, however, is song stylist. She has received many nicknames including "Sweet Nancy", "The Baby", "Fancy Miss Nancy" and "The Girl With the Honey-Coated Voice".

Wilson has worked with the likes of Julian "Cannonball" Adderley, Ramsey Lewis, Barry Manilow, Stanley Clarke and many others. She has also appeared on several popular television shows throughout her career.

Wilson received other numerous awards and honors, including the Whitney Young,Jr. Award from the Urban League, Playboy Reader Poll Award for best jazz vocalist. She was dubbed the Global Entertainer of the Year by the World Conference of Mayors. In 1993, she received an award from the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in 1993; the NAACP Image Award - Hall of Fame Award in 1998, and was inducted into the Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame in 1999. She received the Trumpet Award for Outstanding Achievement in 1994. Nancy has received a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1991, at 6541 Hollywood Blvd. She received honorary degrees from the Berklee School of Music and Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio.

Wilson was the recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), NEA Jazz Masters Fellowships award in 2004, the highest honors that the United States government bestows upon jazz musicians. The 2004 NAACP Image Awards for Best Recording Jazz Artist. In 2005, the UNCF Trumpet Award celebrating African-American achievement, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the NAACP in Chicago, and Oprah Winfrey’s Legends Award. In September 2005, Nancy was inducted on the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame at the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site.


Nina Simone (February 21, 1933 – April 21, 2003) was a singer, songwriter, pianist, arranger, and civil rights activist widely associated with jazz music. Simone aspired to become a classical pianist while working in a broad range of styles including classical, jazz, blues, soul, folk, R&B, gospel, and pop. Her original style arose from a fusion of gospel and pop songs with classical music, and accompanied with her expressive jazz-like singing in characteristic low tenor. She injected as much of her classical background into her music as possible to give it more depth and quality, and as she felt that pop music was inferior. Simone's music was highly influential in the fight black people faced for equal rights in America, regardless of race. Her powerful music was a source of inspiration and enjoyment for her generation, and continues to be for those that follow.

Simone's bearing and stage presence earned her the title "High Priestess of Soul". She was a piano player, singer and performer, "separately and simultaneously". On stage, Simone moved from gospel to blues, jazz and folk, to numbers with European classical styling, and Bach-style counterpoint fugues. She incorporated monologues and dialogues with the audience into the program, and often used silence as a musical element. Simone compared it to "mass hypnosis. I use it all the time" Throughout most of her life and recording career she was accompanied by percussionist Leopoldo Fleming and guitarist and musical director Al Schackman.

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