Cassandra Wilson (born. Dec 4, 1955) is a best known as an American songwriter, singer, jazz musician and music producer who hails from Jackson, Mississippi. Wilson, whose ancestry includes Welsh, Eastern European and West African blood is the third youngest child of jazz musician Herman Fowlkes Jr. Wilson grew up with a taste for music from a very early age, given how her own parents had always adored music; her father had studied jazz music and her mother had adored Motown. Hence it was hardly surprising when Wilson expressed her own interest in learning to play the guitar; her father was adamant that she learn on her own and thus the young aspiring musician developed her own intuitive approach when it came to playing the guitar. Wilson graduated with a degree in mass communication from Millsaps College and attended Jackson State University. It would be in 2007 that she would go on to receive her PhD in Arts from Millsap College.
It was when Wilson performed behop with the Black Arts Music Society which was founded by John Reese that she made her first dive into the world of professional music. As Assistant for Public Affairs Director for WDSU which was a local television station in New Orleans, Wilson moved to the city in 1981 and it was there that she met Ellis Marsalis, Alvin Batiste and Earl Turbinton who all encouraged her to move to New York to pursue her interest in jazz music. In NYC, Cassandra Wilson did ear training which helped her refine her scat and vocal phrasing. Wilson went on to become one of the founding members and vocalists for the M-Base Collective which was a musical group that helped redefine both soul and funk, within the contexts of avant garde/traditional jazz. She released her first recording in 1986. Wilson also co-wrote with well known musicians of the day such as Jean-Paul Bourelly, James Weidman and Steve Coleman. It was as she worked with them that Wilson managed to develop the ability to elongate syllables, bend pitches, and manipulate tones from hollow to dusky and vice versa.
It was in 1996 that Wilson’s album New Moon Daughter won the Grammy for Best Jazz Vocal Performance. A year later in 1997, she both toured and recorded with Wynton Marsalis’s composition Blood On the Fields. In 1981, Cassandra Wilson married Anthony Wilson. She later had a son with him, Jeris with whom she resided for many years in New York’s Sugar Hill. Two of her most famous compositions, ‘Jeris Blues’ and ‘Out Loud’ are dedicated to her son. In 2000, Wilson married the actor Isaach de Bankole who directed her in the film, ‘Traveling Miles: Cassandra Wilson’.