American composer, musicologist, pianist and double bass player Olly Wilson was born on 7 September 1937 in St Louis, Missouri. He studied at Washington University in St Louis, at the University of Illinois and at the University of Iowa.
He was one of the most distinguished African American composers in the twentieth century and 21st century, and was commissioned by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
In 1971 he received a Guggenheim Fellowship, which he used to live in West Africa and study African music and languages. In 1995 he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 2008 he received a Rome Prize from the American Academy in Rome.
He taught at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, at Oberlin Conservatory of Music (where he set up the TIMARA program - Technology in Music and Related Arts - the first-ever electronic music conservatory course) and the University of California at Berkeley (where he was also chairmain of the university's music department).
Olly Wilson died in Berkeley, California on 13 March 2018, aged eighty.