Gloria Lynne, Singer of ‘I Wish You Love,’ Dies at 83
By DANIEL E. SLOTNIK
Gloria Lynne, a jazz diva who climbed onto the pop charts with her recording of “I Wish You Love” in 1964 and continued singing for more than half a century even in the face of poverty, died on Oct. 15 in Newark. She was 83.
Andrew Lepley/Redferns, via Getty Images
The cause was heart failure, said her son, P. J. Allen.
During her long career, Ms. Lynne’s resonant contralto was heard on more than 25 albums. She performed with Ray Charles and Johnny Mathis and toured with Ella Fitzgerald.
She began recording for Everest Records in 1958, and six years later her rendition of “I Wish You Love,” the English-language version of a French song recorded in 1942 by Charles Trenet, became her most enduring hit. A lament accompanied by a lush string arrangement, it peaked at No. 28 on the Billboard Hot 100. Ms. Lynne later said that she learned the song the evening before recording it.
“I learned it overnight, and I really wasn’t too pleased with it,” she said in an interview for an oral history of the Apollo Theater in 2009. “And they said, ‘This is going to be the single.’ And I said, ‘Are you kidding me?’ ”
Ms. Lynne became popular enough to appear on Harry Belafonte’s network television special “The Strolling ’20s” in 1966, and many of her records sold well. But she said she received virtually no royalties from record sales, only more bookings. Her popularity waned as tastes shifted in the 1970s, and she had to supplement her income by taking temporary work. For a while she was homeless.
“They say, ‘Well, if you weren’t being paid, why did you continue to sing?’ ” she said. “I couldn’t throw away what gift I had because of the money.”
“From My Heart to Yours,” her last studio album, was released in 2007.
Gloria Mia Wilson was born in Harlem to John and Mary Wilson on Nov. 23, 1929. (Some sources list her birth year as 1931.) She sang in church choirs, was briefly trained for opera and attended concerts at the Apollo while growing up. At 15 she sneaked out of her home and lied about her age to compete in the amateur night contest there. She won, she said, and was smacked by her mother for lying about it.
After taking up with a man named Harry Alleyne, she began using his last name. When she performed at local clubs, announcers stumbled over her surname so often that they began shortening it to Lynne.
She also recorded demos of new songs for Dinah Washington and others to hear before recording their own versions. The composer and bandleader Raymond Scott heard one of these demos and helped Ms. Lynne sign with Everest.
She and Mr. Alleyne divorced in 1968.
Besides her son, Ms. Lynne, who lived in East Orange, N.J., is survived by a brother, John Wilson.
Her final performance was at the Manhattan nightclub 54 Below in August. It included “I Wish You Love.”
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: October 21, 2013
An earlier version of this obituary, using information from Ms. Lynne’s family, misstated the date of her death. It was Oct. 15, not Oct 8.