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Nancy Wilson, whose accomplished and adjustable access to singing provided a key arch amid the adult jazz-pop choir of the 1950s and the assertive pop-soul singers of the 1960s and ‘70s, died Thursday at her home in Pioneertown, California. She was 81.

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Wilson’s death, which came afterwards a continued illness, was accepted by her manager, Devra Hall Levy.

In her continued and acclaimed career, Wilson performed American standards, applesauce ballads, Broadway appearance tunes, R&B bake songs and bourgeois pop pieces, all delivered with a acute faculty of a song’s narrative.

“I accept a allowance for cogent stories, authoritative them assume beyond than life,” she told the Los Angeles Times in 1993. “I adulation the vignette, the plays aural the song.”

Some of Wilson’s best-known recordings told tales of heartbreak, with attitude. A advertiser of the avant-garde changeable empowerment singer, with the arrant inflections and bitter inflections to ammunition it, Wilson could animate alike the saddest song with a faculty of strength.

In her able signature allotment from 1960, “Guess Who I Saw Today,” a woman baits her bedmate by dryly cogent him a adventure in which he turns out to be the axial villain. In her 1968 hit, “Face It Girl, It’s Over,” Wilson aboriginal seems to bandy algid baptize in the face of a woman who fails to apprehension her lover has absent absorption in her. Only after does she acknowledge that she is the benighted woman scorned. The closing number, an ballsy anatomy blowout, became one of the singer’s better blueprint scores, authoritative the Top 30 of Billboard’s pop blueprint and Top 15 on its R&B list.

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Her better hit came in 1964, aback “(You Don’t Know) How Glad I Am,” a admiring R&B carol delivered with panache, accomplished No. 11 on Billboard’s pop chart. A accomplished and awful able singer, Wilson appear added than 70 albums in a recording career that lasted bristles decades. She won three Grammy Awards, one for best accent and dejection recording for the 1964 anthology “How Glad I Am,” and two for best applesauce articulate album, in 2005 and 2007.

For her constant assignment as an apostle of civilian rights, which included boot in the 1965 beef in Selma, Alabama, she accustomed an accolade from the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in 1993, and an NAACP Hall of Fame Image Accolade in 1998. In 2005, she was inducted into the International Civilian Rights: Walk of Fame at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site. In 1967, Wilson became one of the few African-Americans of the day to host a TV program, the Emmy-winning “Nancy Wilson Show” on NBC. “As an artisan then, demography such a political angle came with able risks,” she told the blog Applesauce Wax in 2010. “But it had to be done.”

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Nancy Wilson was built-in Feb. 20, 1937, in Chillicothe, Ohio, the aboriginal of six accouchement built-in to Olden Wilson, a administrator at an adamant foundry, and Lilian Ryan, a maid. Her ancestor alien her to annal by mainly macho artists, like Nat King Cole, Billy Eckstine and Jimmy Scott, aback he sang with Lionel Hampton’s Big Band. “Much of my delivery is so agnate to Jimmy Scott’s,” she told the Los Angeles Times.

From the age of 4, Wilson sang avidly, and by the time she was 10, she was the advance accompanist in the bounded choir. She had no academic training. “It’s all natural,” she told Applesauce Wax.

As a teenager, Wilson became absorption by the changeable singers she heard on a bounded jukebox, abnormally Dinah Washington, whose ear for irony, and agog faculty of drama, afflicted her deeply. “The accepted amusement is a lot of Dinah,” the accompanist said of her appearance in an account for the National Endowment for the Arts’ website in 2004. As the afflatus for her alluring presentation, she cited Lena Horne.

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At 15, while she was still a apprentice at West Aerial School in Columbus, Ohio, Wilson entered a aptitude challenge captivated by the bounded television base WTVN, which led to a twice-weekly gig on its appearance “Skyline Melodies.” Until her graduation, she sang at nightclubs, sometimes with the 18-piece bandage Sir Raleigh Randolph and His Sultans of Swing.

Wilson spent one year at Axial State College in Ohio afore bottomward out to accompany music abounding time. Still, she took affliction to hone her abilities over a continued period, touring continuously in the Midwest and Canada with Rusty Bryant’s Carolyn Club Big Band, with whom she cut her aboriginal recordings, for Dot Records. Seven years anesthetized afore she acquainted accessible to move to New York in 1959.

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She came armed with a authorization to accomplish three goals: to get active by a key applesauce manager, John Levy, who formed with Cannonball Adderley and George Shearing; to be active by Capitol Records, which was again accepted for singers like Nat King Cole and Peggy Lee; and to accept her aboriginal anthology produced by David Cavanaugh, who formed with those singers.

Within bristles months she accomplished all three goals, admitting captivation bottomward a day job as a secretary at The New York Institute of Technology. A high-profile gig at the Blue Morocco club had led to the arrangement with Levy, who got her the characterization deal, which affiliated her with Cavanaugh to aftermath her admission in April 1960. With bright arrange by Billy May, the album, blue-blooded “Like in Love,” was authentic jazz, although, in the appearance of the day, it anesthetized as pop.

For an aboriginal album, “Nancy Wilson/Cannonball Adderley,” she commutual with the titular saxophonist to actualize a applesauce touchstone. Her appearance afflicted the critics. Writing in Downbeat in 1965, Leonard Feather hailed her achievement at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles as an “extraordinary affirmation of the attainment, by a baroque singer, of an about aberrant admixture of bartering appeal, concrete and music charm, and aesthetic integrity.”

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Live performances, decidedly in affectionate nightclubs area audiences could see her gestures, became a hallmark. “Audiences appetite to see a song as able-bodied as apprehend it,” Wilson told Applesauce Wax. “Part of what I do is in my anatomy language, my hands, my arms. You absence a lot by aloof audition my voice.”

At the aforementioned time, Wilson formed endlessly in the studio, absolution three albums in a distinct year during her prime. She additionally fabricated abounding bedfellow appearances on TV shows, singing on array programs (like “The Ed Sullivan Show” and “The Tonight Show”) and acting in hit alternation (like “I Spy” and “Room 222”). She acclimated her aerial contour to breach bottomward ancestral stereotypes. “That’s what I admired about accomplishing ‘The Carol Burnett Show,’” she told Applesauce Wax. “I didn’t accept to ball ‘black characters.’ I could aloof do comedy, which I loved.”

Over the years, Wilson’s music confused with the times. She cut songs accounting by the Beatles and Stevie Wonder on her 1966 anthology “A Touch of Today,” and after congenital disco and avant-garde R&B styles afore affective aback to applesauce on her after albums, culminating in 2006’s “Turned to Blue.”

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Throughout her career, Wilson kept the focus on music rather than celebrity, while authoritative abiding to carve out time for her clandestine life. She affiliated bagman Kenny Dennis in 1960, divorcing him a decade later. In 1973, she affiliated Wiley Burton, a Presbyterian abbot with whom she remained until his afterlife in 2008.

She is survived by her three children, Kacy Dennis, Sheryl Burton and Samantha Burton; two sisters, Karen Davis and Brenda Vann; and bristles grandchildren.

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Wilson remained appreciative of her holistic access to music, preferring to alarm herself a “song stylist” rather than a addict of any genre. “I don’t put labels on it, I aloof sing,” she told the Los Angeles Times. “It’s all in the ear of the listener. Let them decide.”

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