Singer Nancy Wilson has died at the age of 81. Wilson — who was also a civil rights activist who marched in Selma — released more than 60 albums in a career spanning five decades, winning three Grammys and scoring many hits.

In 1994, jazz legend Nancy Wilson talked with Detroit Black Journal host, Darryl Wood, about the beginnings of her career, her perception of show business from an early age, and how that perception shaped her music career:

American Black Journal airs on Sundays at 9:30 AM and repeats Wednesdays at 7:30 PM on Detroit Public Television.

Wilson grew up in Ohio and emerged as a major recording star by the 1960s ranging from jazz to pop to R&B. She participated in a protest march in Selma, Alabama in 1965 and received an NAACP Image Award in 1998. We revisit Jeffrey Brown’s 2004 interview with Wilson:

Read the Full Transcript:

William Brangham:

Finally tonight, we close with a remembrance of the great singer Nancy Wilson, who died yesterday.

Wilson was a legend who crossed so many different styles and won over a generation of fans.

Wilson released more than 60 albums in a career spanning five decades. She won three Grammys, and had many hits. She was a civil rights activist who marched in Selma. She hosted her own TV variety show in the 1970s.

But it was her ability to dazzle audiences across so many musical genres, jazz, pop, Broadway standards and ballads, that really set her apart.

In fact, she called herself a song stylist. In 2004, when Jeffrey Brown interviewed her, he asked what she meant by that.

Nancy Wilson:

Give me the freedom to be a pop singer, R&B singer, jazz singer. It’s really about the lyric, as opposed to the melody.

And that’s my approach to the music, is lyrically. I love the song. I love what it says. And I think song stylist gives me the freedom to sing any — all kinds of things and not be put in a box, necessarily.

Jeffrey Brown:

What makes a great song?

Nancy Wilson:

I want to tell you a story. I want the song to have legs. I want it to mean something to you 10 years from now. It’s kind of like acting. You know, you go there.

You do little vignettes. Each song is a play. That’s always been my approach to it, you know? I can close my eyes and go where that song goes.

William Brangham:

Nancy Wilson was 81 years old.

Featured Image: Grand Gala du Disque in de RAI .Nancy Wilson, Photo by the Dutch National Archives via wikimedia cc0 1.0