Lynne was born in Harlem in 1929 to John and Mary Wilson, a gospel singer. She grew up in Harlem, and as a young girl, Lynne sang with the local African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church Choir. At the age of 15, she won first prize at the Amateur Night contest at the Apollo Theater. She shared the stage with contemporary night club vocal ensembles as well as with Ella Fitzgerald, she recorded as part of such groups as the Enchanters and the Dell-Tones, in the 1950s. She recorded as a soloist under her birth name, though most of her work was released under her stage name on the Everest and Fontana labels. In 1958, she was signed to Everest.
Although showing much promise early on, especially after TV appearances, including the Harry Belafonte Spectacular, her development suffered through poor management. Some unscrupulous recording 'executives' profited while she was left virtually penniless, saved by the fact that she was able to work steadily and earn her money from performances — a victim of unpaid royalties.
In the 1960s, she had several hits including "June Night", "Love I Found You", "I'm Glad There Is You", 1964's "I Wish You Love", which became her signature song, and "You Don't Have To Be a Tower of Strength", her answer to Gene McDaniels's "Tower of Strength" and a pop hit that proved how versatile she could be in the studio. After her time with Everest Records, she moved back to Fontana and recorded such albums as Soul Serenade, Love And A Woman, Where It's At, and Here, There And Everywhere, demonstrating her versatility in jazz, RnB, soul and melodic "pop".
In 1996, Lynne received the International Women of Jazz Award, and she was honored with a Pioneer Award by the Rhythm and Blues Foundation in 1997. Other awards and recognition include the National Treasure Award from the Seasoned Citizens Theatre Company (2003); induction into the National Black Sports and Entertainment Hall of Fame; Living Legend Award from the State of Pennsylvania (2007). On May 6, 2008, Lynne was presented with a special award for Outstanding Achievement In Jazz, at the New York MAC Awards. On October 22, 2010, she was honored at New York's Schomburg Library, for her many contributions to the music industry and the world by Great Women In Music and its founder Roz Nixon. Roz Nixon Entertainment worked successfully with Lynne throughout her final years, producing, co-producing or participating in making the arrangements for Ms. Lynne's appearances pertaining to her last concerts or significant events.