We’ve, recently, lost a giant in the field of music. Ms. Nancy Sue Wilson, a jazz singer whose career spanned over five decades, passed away on Thursday, December 13th 2018 at the age of 81. Ms. Wilson, who was notable for her single “How Glad I Am” and her version of the standard “Guess Who I Saw Today”, was remembered by several prominent celebrities and political leaders…
“She sang for us until the stars twinkled into the heavens. She marched for us. She spoke for us. We will always remember Grammy- winning songstress NancyWilson, a woman of immense dignity. RIP”Rev. Jesse Jackson
“We’ve lost another legend and a shining example of beauty, class, grace and talent in the passing of Nancy Wilson! She made an indelible mark on me as she did with so many others! My heart goes out to her family, friends and fans all around the world! ❤“Patti Labelle
“There are no words to describe how my heart aches at this news that my baby sister, my Piscean sister, Nancy has passed away. You were the light of every room you walked in. God bless you Nancy. I will miss you every day, but I will always cherish our times together.”Quincy Jones
Ms Wilson has touched us all through her gift of music and has left the world a catalog of classics that has stood the test of time. However few may have heard her stirring rendition of a song that she performed only once and never recorded. The song, written by Benard Ighner, was entitled “Everything Must Change”. Published in 1976 on a Quincy Jones album entitled Body Heat, the classic song’s lyrics explores the “change” that we, as human beings, experience by; going through trials in life, growing older, and eventually dying. In this song Bernard Ighner artfully explores the fragility of “change” in human life by highlighting the things that never change.
“The young become the old, mysteries do unfold. ‘Cause that’s the way of time. Nothing and no one goes unchanged. There are not many things In life you can be sure of. Except, rain comes from the clouds, and sun lights up the sky, and humming birds do fly.”Lyrics from “Everything Must Change”
In 1985, another Jazz legend by the name of Julian “Cannonball” Adderley passed away. Cannonball was a Jazz Alto Saxophonist who gained popularity in the 1950’s and 60’s, during the bebop era of jazz. As a result, he worked with trumpeter Miles Davis on many of his albums during the late 50’s. He is most remembered for his 1966 crossover hit “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy”. His younger brother was a jazz trumpeter by the name of Nat Adderley.
A Story of Interwoven stories…
“Nancy Wilson sang Everything Must Change, as a duet with Nat Adderley, at Cannonball’s funeral on March 26, 1985. It was on the campus of Florida A&M University (FAMU), being that Cannonball was a member of the FAMU music faculty at the time.
Lindsey Sarjeant, currently Chair of the Music Department at FAMU, attended Cannonball’s funeral services and served as a pallbearer. While attending an annual Gala in honor of his brother’s life (Mr. Lindsey Sarjeant’s brother was legendary band director Ronald J Sarjeant of South Carolina State University), Lindsey told the story of Nancy Wilson’s riveting performance of Everything Must Change at Cannonball’s funeral.
Lindsey also shared the reverence and importance of the song’s lyrics to him and his brother and how whenever adversity occurred in their lives, they would always refer back to the lyrics of the song to see them through it. He stated that it became sort of a “go to” song that they shared, and would reflect on whenever life’s changes were presented…
When Lindsey was talking about his relationship with his brother and the significance of the song, there were a few things that I started to recall about OUR experiences with Mr. Sarjeant that made a little more sense now… The subtle disposition of Sarj (goes with the style of the song), the power of Sarj (powerful lyrics), the chord changes (well…)
In honor of the Sarjeant Brothers, I arranged Everything Must Change for my jazz orchestra. It was premiered at a show that we did in October of 2018. During the performance, I shared my own story about how I first heard the song at SC State University during a jazz band rehearsal and how I recently became aware of the deeper meaning it had for my band director, Mr Ronald Sarjeant.
At the Gala, Lindsey performed a solo piano version of Everything Must Change, so naturally I had to have my chart start off with solo piano as well!… The bonus for me was that Mrs. Sarjeant was at my show so she heard it.”Charlton Singleton
Charlton Singleton is a 1994 graduate of South Carolina State University with a degree in music performance. He has traveled the world as a Jazz artist and has produced many albums and recordings throughout his career. He is currently conductor and artistic director of the Charleston Jazz Orchestra, a 20-piece aggregation at the vanguard of jazz in South Carolina. He is a board member of The Jazz Artists of Charleston where he also serves as vice president.