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Nina Simone

Nina Simone in 1969. The photo by Jackie Robinson was used as the cover of Simone's posthumous compilation album Forever Young, Gifted & Black
Background information
Birth name Eunice Kathleen Waymon
Born February 21, 1933(1933-02-21)
Tryon, North Carolina
United States
Died April 21, 2003 (aged 70)
Carry-le-Rouet, France
Genres Jazz, blues, soul, R&B, folk, gospel
Occupations Singer, songwriter, pianist, arranger, activist
Years active 1954—2003
Labels RCA Victor, Philips, Bethlehem, Colpix, Legacy Recordings
Website www.ninasimone.com

Eunice Kathleen Waymon (February 21, 1933–April 21, 2003), better known by her stage name Nina Simone (/ˈniːnə sɨˈmoʊn/), was an American singer, songwriter, pianist, arranger, and civil rights activist. Although she disliked being categorized, Simone is most associated with jazz music. Simone originally aspired to become a classical pianist, but her work covers an eclectic variety of musical styles that include classical, jazz, blues, soul, folk, R&B, gospel, and pop. Her vocal style is characterized by intense passion, a loose vibrato, and a slightly androgynous timbre, in part due to her unusually low vocal range which veered between the alto and tenor ranges (occasionally even reaching baritone lows). Also known as The High Priestess of Soul, she paid great attention to the musical expression of emotions. Within one album or concert she could fluctuate between exuberant happiness and tragic melancholy. These fluctuations also characterized her own personality and personal life, amplified by bipolar disorder with which she was diagnosed in the mid-1960s, something not revealed until after her death in 2003.[1] According to Nadine Cohodas, Simone's biographer, Ms. Simone was first diagnosed with multiple personality disorder and later with schizophrenia.[2]

Simone recorded over 40 live and studio albums, the greatest body of her work released between 1958 (when she made her debut with Little Girl Blue) and 1974. Her most well known songs include "My Baby Just Cares for Me", "I Put a Spell on You", "Four Women", "I Loves You Porgy", "Feeling Good", "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood", "Sinnerman", "To Be Young, Gifted and Black", "Mississippi Goddam", "Ain't Got No, I Got Life" and "I Want a Little Sugar in My Bowl".

Her music and message made a strong and lasting impact on culture,[3] illustrated by the numerous contemporary artists who cite her as an important influence (see Legacy and influence). Several hip hop musicians and other modern artists sample and remix Simone's rhythms and beats on their tracks. In particular, Talib Kweli and Mos Def routinely pay tribute to her outstanding and soulful musical style. Many of her songs are featured on motion picture soundtracks, as well as in video games, commercials, and TV series.

Contents

Biography

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Youth (1933–1954)

Simone was born Eunice Kathleen Waymon in Tryon, North Carolina one of eight children in a poor family. She had mixed heritage including Native American, African American and Irish. She began playing piano at the age of 3; the first song she learned was "God be With You, Till we Meet Again". She continued to play at her local church and showed talent with this instrument. Her concert debut, a classical recital, was made at the age of twelve. Later in life, Simone claimed that during this performance, her parents, who had taken seats in the front row, were forced to move to the back of the hall to make way for white people. Simone said she refused to play until her parents were moved back to the front.[4][5] This incident contributed to her later involvement in the civil rights movement.

Simone's mother, Mary Kate Waymon (who lived into her late 90s) was a strict Methodist minister; her father, John Divine Waymon, was a handyman and sometime barber who suffered bouts of ill-health. Mrs. Waymon worked as a maid and her employer, hearing of Nina's talent, provided funds for piano lessons.[6] Subsequently, a local fund was set up to assist in Eunice's continued education. At age 17, Simone moved to Philadelphia, where she encountered more racism when applying for a scholarship at the Curtis Institute. She failed to get a scholarship despite what was reported as an excellent audition. At first she was told that the rejection was based on her performance, but an insider later explained to her that the real reason was because she was black.[7]

This is where Simone's real passion about the Civil Rights Movement started. While here she taught piano and accompanied singers to fund her own studying as a classical music pianist at New York City's Juilliard School of Music. With the help of a private tutor she studied for an interview to further study piano at the Curtis Institute, but she was rejected. Simone believed that this rejection was related directly to her being black, as well as being a woman.[8]

Early success (1954–1959)

Simone played at the Midtown Bar & Grill on Pacific Avenue in Atlantic City to fund her study. The owner said that she would have to sing as well as play the piano in order to get the job. She adopted the stage name "Nina Simone" in 1954 because she did not want her mother to know that she was playing "the devil's music". "Nina" (from "niña", meaning "little girl" in Spanish) was a nickname a boyfriend had given to her and "Simone" was after the French actress Simone Signoret, whom she had seen in the movie Casque d'or.[9] Simone played and sang a mixture of jazz, blues and classical music at the bar, creating a small but loyal fan base.[10]

After playing in small clubs she recorded a rendition of George Gershwin's "I Loves You Porgy" (from Porgy and Bess) in 1958, which was learned from a Billie Holiday album and performed as a favor to a friend. It became her only Billboard top 40 success in the United States, and her debut album Little Girl Blue soon followed on Bethlehem Records. Simone would never benefit financially from the album; she sold the rights for $3,000, missing out on more than $1 million in royalties (mainly because of the successful re-release of "My Baby Just Cares for Me" during the 1980s).[11]

Becoming popular (1959–1964)

After the success of Little Girl Blue, Simone signed a contract with the larger company Colpix Records, followed by a string of studio and live albums. Colpix relinquished all creative control, including the choice of material that would be recorded, to her in exchange for her contracting with them. Simone, who at this point only performed popular music to make money to continue her classical music studies, was bold with her demand for control over her music because she was indifferent about having a recording contract. She would keep this attitude towards the record industry for most of her career.[12]

Simone married a New York police detective, Andrew Stroud, in 1961; Stroud later became her manager.[7]

Civil rights era (1964–1974)

During 1964, she changed record distributors, from the American Colpix to the Dutch Philips, which also meant a change in the contents of her recordings. Simone had always included songs in her repertoire that hinted about her African-American origins (such as "Brown Baby" and "Zungo" on Nina at the Village Gate during 1962). But on her debut album for Philips, Nina Simone In Concert (live recording, 1964), Simone for the first time openly addresses the racial inequality that was prevalent in the United States with the song "Mississippi Goddam". It was her response to the murder of Medgar Evers and the bombing of a church in Birmingham, Alabama that killed four black children. The song was released as a single, being boycotted in certain southern states.[3][13] With "Old Jim Crow" on the same album she reacts to the Jim Crow Laws.

From then onwards, a civil rights message was standard in Simone's recording repertoire, where it had already become a part of her live performances. Simone performed and spoke at many civil rights meetings, such as at the Selma to Montgomery marches.[14] Simone advocated violent revolution during the civil rights period as opposed to Martin Luther King's non-violent approach,[15] and hoped that African Americans could, by armed combat, form a separate state (Simone was not, however, a racist, and wrote in her autobiography that her family and indeed herself regarded all races as equal.[16]) She covered Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit" (on Pastel Blues (1965)), a song about the lynching of black men in the South, and sang the W. Cuney poem "Images" on Let It All Out (1966), about the absence of pride in the African-American woman. Simone wrote "Four Women", a song about four different stereotypes of African-American women.[3] and sings it on Wild Is the Wind (1966).

Simone moved from Philips to RCA Victor during 1967. She sang "Backlash Blues", written by her friend Langston Hughes on her first RCA album, Nina Simone Sings The Blues (1967). On Silk & Soul (1967) she recorded Billy Taylor's "I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free" and "Turning Point". The album Nuff Said (1968) contains live recordings from the Westbury Music Fair, April 7, 1968, three days after the murder of Martin Luther King, Jr. She dedicated the whole performance to him and sang "Why? (The King Of Love Is Dead)", a song written by her bass player directly after the news of King's death had reached them.[17]

Together with Weldon Irvine, Simone turned the late Lorraine Hansberry's unfinished play "To Be Young, Gifted and Black" into a civil rights song. She performed it live on the album Black Gold (1970). A studio recording was released as a single, and the song has been covered by Aretha Franklin (on 1972s Young, Gifted and Black) and Donny Hathaway.[3][16]

Later life (1974–2003)

Simone at a concert in Morlaix, France in May 1982.

Simone left the United States in September 1970. She flew to Barbados, expecting her husband and manager, Stroud, to communicate with her when she had to perform again. However, Stroud interpreted Simone's sudden disappearance (and the fact that she had left behind her wedding ring) as a cue for a divorce. As her manager, Stroud was also in charge of Simone's income. This meant that after their separation Simone did not have any knowledge about how her business was managed and what she was actually worth. Upon returning to the United States, she also learned that she was wanted for unpaid taxes, causing her to go back to Barbados again to evade the authorities and prosecution.[18] Simone stayed in Barbados for quite some time, and had a lengthy affair with the Prime Minister, Errol Barrow.[19][20] A close friend, singer Miriam Makeba, persuaded her to go to Liberia. After that she lived in Switzerland and the Netherlands, before settling in France during 1992.

She recorded her last album for RCA Records, It Is Finished, during 1974. It was not until 1978 that Simone was persuaded by CTI Records owner Creed Taylor to record another album, Baltimore. While not a commercial success, the album did get good reviews and marked a quiet artistic renaissance in Simone's recording output.[21] Her choice of material retained its eclecticism, ranging from spiritual songs to Hall & Oates' "Rich Girl". Four years later Simone recorded Fodder On My Wings on a French label. During the 1980s Simone performed regularly at Ronnie Scott's jazz club in London, where the album Live at Ronnie Scott's was recorded during 1984. Though her on-stage style could be somewhat haughty and aloof, in later years, Simone particularly seemed to enjoy engaging her audiences by recounting sometimes humorous anecdotes related to her career and music and soliciting requests. In 1987, the original 1958 recording of "My Baby Just Cares For Me" was used in an advert for Chanel No. 5 perfume in the UK. This led to a re-release which stormed to number 5 in the UK singles chart giving her a brief surge in popularity in the UK. Her autobiography, I Put a Spell on You, was published during 1992 and she recorded her last album, A Single Woman, in 1993.

In 1993, Simone settled near Aix-en-Provence in Southern France. She had been ill with breast cancer for several years before she died in her sleep at her home in Carry-le-Rouet, Bouches-du-Rhône on April 21, 2003. Her funeral service was attended by singers Miriam Makeba and Patti Labelle, poet Sonia Sanchez, actor Ossie Davis and hundreds of others. Elton John sent a floral tribute with the message "We were the greatest and I love you".[22] Simone's ashes were scattered in several African countries. She left behind a daughter, Lisa Celeste, now an actress/singer who took on the stage name Simone and has appeared on Broadway in Aida.[23]

Musical style

Simone standards

Throughout her career, Simone gathered a collection of songs that would become standards in her repertoire (apart from the civil rights songs) and for which she is still remembered, even though most of these songs did not perform well on the charts at the time. These songs were self-written tunes, cover versions (usually with a new arrangement by Simone), or songs written especially for Simone. Her first hit song in America was a cover of George Gershwin's "I Loves You Porgy" (1958). It peaked at number 18 in the pop singles chart and number 2 on the black singles chart.[24] During that same period Simone recorded "My Baby Just Cares for Me", which would become her biggest success years later in 1987, when it was featured in a Chanel no. 5 perfume commercial. A music video was then created by Aardman Studios.[25]

Well known songs from her Philips albums include "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" on Broadway-Blues-Ballads (1964), "I Put a Spell on You", "Ne Me Quitte Pas" (a Jacques Brel cover) and "Feeling Good" on I Put A Spell On You (1965), "Lilac Wine" and "Wild Is the Wind" on Wild is the Wind (1966).[26] Especially the songs "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood", "Feeling Good" and "Sinnerman" (Pastel Blues, 1965) have great popularity today in terms of cover versions (most notably The Animals' version of the former song), sample usage and its use on various movie-, TV-series- and videogame soundtracks. "Sinnerman" in particular has been featured in the TV series Scrubs, on movies such as The Thomas Crown Affair, Miami Vice, and Inland Empire, and sampled by artists like Talib Kweli and Timbaland. The song "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" was sampled by Devo Springsteen on "Misunderstood" from Common's 2007 album Finding Forever, and by little-known producers Rodnae and Mousa for the song "Don't Get It" on Lil Wayne's 2008 album Tha Carter III. The song "See-Line Woman" was sampled by Kanye West for "Bad News" on his 808s and Heartbreak album.

Simone's years at RCA-Victor spawned a number of singles and album songs that were popular, particularly in Europe. In 1968, it was "Ain't Got No, I Got Life", a medley from the musical Hair from the album 'Nuff Said! (1968) that became a surprise hit for Simone, reaching number 2 on the UK pop charts and introducing her to a younger audience.[27] In 2006, it returned to the UK Top 30 in a remixed version by Groovefinder. The following single, the Bee Gees' "To Love Somebody" also reached the UK top 10 in 1969. "House of the Rising Sun" featured on Nina Simone Sings The Blues in 1967, but Simone had recorded the song earlier in 1961 (featuring on Nina At The Village Gate, 1962), predating versions by Dave Van Ronk and Bob Dylan.[28][29] It was later picked up by The Animals and became their signature hit.

Performing style

Simone's regal bearing and commanding stage presence earned her the title "High Priestess of Soul". Her live performances were regarded not as mere concerts, but as happenings. She was a piano, player, singer and performer, "separately and simultaneously".[7] On stage, Simone moved from gospel to blues, jazz and folk, to numbers infused with European classical styling, and counterpoint fugues. She incorporated monologues and dialogues with the audience into the program, and often used silence as a musical element.[30] Simone compared it to "mass hypnosis. I use it all the time"[16] Throughout most of her live and recording career she was accompanied by percussionist Leopoldo Flemming and guitarist and musical director Al Schackman.[31]

Simone had a reputation in the music industry for being volatile and sometimes difficult to deal with, a characterization with which she strenuously took issue. In 1995, she shot and wounded her neighbor's son with a pneumatic pistol after his laughter disturbed her concentration.[32] She also fired a gun at a record company executive whom she accused of stealing royalties.[33] It is now recognized that this "difficulty" was the result of bipolar disorder. Simone reluctantly took medication for her condition from the mid-1960s on.[1] All this was only known to a small group of intimates, and kept out of public view for many years, until the biography Break Down And Let It All Out written by Sylvia Hampton and David Nathan revealed this secret in 2004.

Legacy and influence

Music

Nina Simone is often cited by artists from diverse musical fields as a source of inspiration. Musicians who have cited her as important for their own musical upbringing are among others Elkie Brooks, Talib Kweli, Mos Def, Elizabeth Fraser, Cat Stevens, Peter Gabriel, Cedric Bixler-Zavala, Mary J. Blige, Michael Gira, Lauryn Hill, Alicia Keys, Kerry Brothers, Jr. "Krucial", Amanda Palmer and Jeff Buckley.[3] [34] [35] [36] John Lennon cited Simone's version of "I Put a Spell on You" as a source of inspiration for the Beatles song "Michelle".[36] Musicians who have covered her work (or her specific renditions of songs) include J.Viewz, Carola, Aretha Franklin, Janis Joplin, Marilyn Manson, Donny Hathaway, David Bowie, Elkie Brooks, Roberta Flack, Jeff Buckley, Jhelisa Anderson who released a tribute album based on her critically acclaimed concert tour "A Tribute to Nina" which can be seen on YouTube, The Animals, Muse, Cat Power, Katie Melua, Timbaland, Feist, Shara Worden, and Michael Bublé. Simone's music has featured in soundtracks of various motion pictures and video games, including but not limited to the The Big Lebowski (1998), Point of No Return (AKA The Assassin, 1993) Notting Hill (1999), The Thomas Crown Affair (1999), Six Feet Under (TV Series) (2001), The Dancer Upstairs (film) (2002), Before Sunset (2004), Cellular (2004), Inland Empire (2006), Sex and the City (2008), Revolutionary Road (2008), and Watchmen (2009). Her music is frequently used in remixes, commercials and TV series.

Film

The documentary Nina Simone: La Legende (The Legend) was made in the '90s by French filmmakers.[16] It was based on her autobiography I Put A Spell On You and features live footage from different periods of her career, interviews with friends and family, various interviews with Simone herself while she was living in the Netherlands, and on a trip to her birthplace. A significant amount of footage from The Legend was taken from an earlier 26-minute biographical documentary by Peter Rodis, released in 1969 and titled simply Nina.[37]

There is also a film made up of footage from Simone's odd performance at Montreux in 1976 called The Rise and Fall of Nina Simone: Montreux, 1976, put together by Tom Blunt[1].

Plans for a Nina Simone biographical film were released at the end of 2005. The movie will be based on Simone's autobiography I Put A Spell On You (1992) and will also focus on her relationship in later life with her assistant, Clifton Henderson, who died in 2006. TV writer Cynthia Mort (Will & Grace, Roseanne) is working on the script, and singer Mary J. Blige will play the lead role. The movie is scheduled for 2012.[38]

Honors

On Human Kindness Day 1974 in Washington, D.C., more than 10,000 people paid tribute to Simone.[39][40] Simone received two honorary degrees in music and humanities from the University of Massachusetts and Malcolm X College.[41] She preferred to be called "Dr. Nina Simone" after these honors were bestowed upon her.[42] Only two days before her death, Simone was awarded an honorary diploma by the Curtis Institute, the school that had turned her down at the start of her career.[43]

Discography

Year Album Type Label Billboard
1958 Little Girl Blue Studio Bethlehem Records
1959 Nina Simone and Her Friends Studio
The Amazing Nina Simone Studio Colpix Records
Nina Simone at Town Hall Live and studio
1960 Nina Simone at Newport Live 23 (pop)
Forbidden Fruit Studio
1962 Nina at the Village Gate Live
Nina Simone Sings Ellington Live
1963 Nina's Choice Compilation
Nina Simone at Carnegie Hall Live
1964 Folksy Nina Live
Nina Simone in Concert Live Philips Records 102 (pop)
Broadway-Blues-Ballads Studio
1965 I Put a Spell on You Studio 99 (pop)
Pastel Blues Studio 8 (black)
1966 Nina Simone with Strings Studio (strings added) Colpix
Let It All Out Live and studio Philips 19 (black)
Wild Is the Wind Studio 12 (black)
1967 High Priestess of Soul Studio 29 (black)
Nina Simone Sings the Blues Studio RCA Records 29 (black)
Silk & Soul Studio 24 (black)
1968 Nuff Said Live and studio 44 (black)
1969 Nina Simone and Piano Studio
To Love Somebody Studio
1970 Black Gold Live 29 (black)
1971 Here Comes the Sun Studio 190 (pop)
1972 Emergency Ward Live and Studio
1974 It Is Finished Live
1978 Baltimore Studio CTI Records 12 (jazz)
1980 The Rising Sun Collection Live Enja
1982 Fodder on My Wings Studio Carrere
1984 Backlash Live StarJazz
1985 Nina's Back Studio VPI
1985 Live & Kickin Live
1987 Let It Be Me Live Verve
1987 Live at Ronnie Scott's Live Hendring-Wadham
1993 A Single Woman Studio Elektra Records 3 (top jazz)
Additional
1969 A Very Rare Evening Live PM Records (Japan)
1975 The Great Show Live In Paris Live RCA?
1997 Released Compilation RCA Victor Europe
2003 Gold Studio Remastered Universal/UCJ
Anthology Compilation (from many labels) RCA/BMG Heritage
2004 Nina Simone's Finest Hour Compilation Verve/Universal
2005 The Soul of Nina Simone Compilation + DVD RCA DualDisc
Nina Simone Live at Montreux 1976 DVD only Eagle Eye Media
2006 The Very Best of Nina Simone Compilation Sony BMG
Remixed and Reimagined Remix Legacy/SBMG 5 (contemp.jazz)
Songs to Sing: the Best of Nina Simone Compilation/Live Compilation Deluxe
Forever Young, Gifted & Black: Songs of Freedom and Spirit Remix RCA
2008 To Be Free: The Nina Simone Story Compilation Sony Legacy
2009 The Definitive Rarities Collection - 50 Classic Cuts Compilation Artwork Media

References

  1. ^ a b Hampton 2004, pp. 9–13
  2. ^ "The soloist: Life of the troubled ‘high priestess of soul’ serves up bountiful detail but skimps on insight". http://www.boston.com/ae/books/articles/2010/02/21/life_of_the_troubled_high_priestess_of_soul/. Retrieved February 21, 2010. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Neal, Mark Anthony (2003-06-04). "Nina Simone: She Cast a Spell — and Made a Choice". http://www.seeingblack.com/2003/x060403/nina_simone.shtml. Retrieved 2007-08-14. 
  4. ^ Simone & Cleary 2003, p. 26
  5. ^ Hampton 2004, p. 15
  6. ^ Simone & Cleary 2003, p. 21
  7. ^ a b c "L'hommage: Nina Simone Biography". http://www.high-priestess.com/biography.html. Retrieved 2007-08-14. 
  8. ^ Simone & Cleary 2003, pp. 41–43
  9. ^ Brun-Lambert 2006, p. 56
  10. ^ Simone & Cleary 2003, pp. 48–52
  11. ^ Simone & Cleary 2003, p. 60
  12. ^ Simone & Cleary 2003, p. 65
  13. ^ Simone & Cleary 2003, pp. 90–91
  14. ^ "The Nina Simone Web: Chronology". 2003. http://boscarol.com/nina/html/manual/crono.html. Retrieved 2007-08-05. 
  15. ^ Simone & Cleary 2003
  16. ^ a b c d Lords, Frank. (1992). Nina Simone, La Legende (documentary). [DVD]. France, United Kingdom: Quantum Leap. 
  17. ^ Simone & Cleary 2003, pp. 114–115
  18. ^ Simone & Cleary 2003, pp. 120–122
  19. ^ Simone & Cleary 2003, pp. 129–134
  20. ^ Brun-Lambert 2006, p. 231
  21. ^ Sunderland, Celeste (2005-07-01). "All about Jazz: review "Fodder on My Wings" & "Baltimore"". http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=18123. Retrieved 2007-08-05. 
  22. ^ "BBCnews: Funeral held for singer Simone". 2003-04-25. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/music/2975871.stm. Retrieved 2007-07-22. 
  23. ^ Frank, Jonathan. "Talking Broadway Seattle: Aida". http://www.talkinbroadway.com/regional/seattle/se54.html. Retrieved 2007-08-14. 
  24. ^ "Allmusic Guide: "I Loves You Porgy" Billboard chart position". http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=10:ehjn7i78g76r~T3. Retrieved 2006-12-07. 
  25. ^ Boscarol, Mauro. "Nina Simone Web: My Baby Just Cares for Me". http://boscarol.com/nina/html/where/mybabyjustcaresf.html. Retrieved 2006-12-07. 
  26. ^ Hampton 2004, pp. 196–202
  27. ^ Hampton 2004, p. 47
  28. ^ Boscarol, Mauro. "Nina Simone Web: House of the Rising Sun". http://boscarol.com/nina/html/where/houseoftherising.html. Retrieved 2006-12-07. 
  29. ^ Hampton 2004, pp. 202–214
  30. ^ Nupie, Roger. "Dr. Nina Simone: Biography". http://www.jazzlinks.net/nina-simone.html. Retrieved 2010-02-21. 
  31. ^ Simone & Cleary 2003, pp. 58–59
  32. ^ "BBC Obituary: Nina Simone". 2003-04-21. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/2965225.stm. Retrieved 2006-12-07. 
  33. ^ Sebastian, Tim (1999-03-25). "BBC Hard Talk: Putting Music First". http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/302438.stm. Retrieved 2006-12-07. 
  34. ^ Vineyard, Jennifer (2005). "Mary J. Wants To Bring Nina Simone Back To Life". http://www.mtv.com/movies/news/articles/1518220/12152005/story.jhtml. Retrieved 2007-08-14. 
  35. ^ Fiore, Raymond. "Entertainment Weekly: Seven who influenced Alicia Keys' Life". http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,1222282__1186026,00.html. Retrieved 2007-08-14. 
  36. ^ a b "The Nina Simone Web: Influenced by Nina". http://boscarol.com/nina/html/manual/influ.html. Retrieved 2007-08-14. 
  37. ^ Peter Rodis documentary, "Nina"
  38. ^ Untitled Nina Simone Project at IMDB.com
  39. ^ Hampton 2004, p. 85
  40. ^ Kelly, John. "Answer Man: Kindness Turned Brutality". http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/04/24/AR2005042400984.html. Retrieved 2007-01-05. 
  41. ^ Kolodzey, Jody. "Remembering Nina Simone". http://www.inthesetimes.com/site/main/article/70/. Retrieved 2006-12-07. 
  42. ^ Hanson, Eric (2004). "A Diva's Spell" (pdf). Williams Alumni Review. http://www.williams.edu/alumni/alumnireview/fall04/Signature.pdf. Retrieved 2006-12-07. 
  43. ^ "The Nina Simone Foundation". http://www.theninasimonefoundation.org/content.php?page=biography. Retrieved 2006-12-07. 

Bibliography

  • Brun-Lambert, David (2006) [2006] (in Dutch, translated from French original). Nina Simone, het tragische lot van een uitzonderlijke zangeres. Introduction by Lisa Celeste Stroud, afterword by Gerrit de Bruin. Zwolle: Sirene. ISBN 90-5831-425-1. 
  • Feldstein, Ruth (March 2005). ""I Don't Trust You Anymore": Nina Simone, Culture, and Black Activism in the 1960s". Journal of American History 91 (4). 
  • Hampton, Sylvia (2004) [2004]. Break Down and Let It All Out. David Nathan, introduction by Lisa Celeste Stroud. London: Sanctuary. ISBN 1-86074-552-0. 
  • Simone, Nina; Stephen Cleary (2003) [1992]. I Put a Spell on You. introduction by Dave Marsh (2nd ed.). New York: Da Capo Press. ISBN 0-306-80525-1. 

External links


Simple English

Nina Simone
Birth name Eunice Kathleen Waymon
Born February 21, 1933(1933-02-21)
Died April 21, 2003 (aged 70)
Carry-le-Rouet (France)
Genres Jazz, Blues, soul, R&B, folk, gospel
Occupations singer and songwriter
Instruments voice, piano
Years active 1954–2003
Labels RCA Victor, Philips, Bethlehem, Colpix, Legacy Recordings
Website www.ninasimone.com/

Nina Simone (born Eunice Kathleen Waymon; February 21, 1933 – April 21, 2003) was an American singer, songwriter, pianist, arranger and civil rights activist. Simone did not like people to classify her music, or say what genre it fell into, but people often call her a jazz musician. She was often called "The High Priestess of Soul".

Contents

Early life

Nina Simone was born Eunice Kathleen Waymon in Tryon, North Carolina in 1933. She was one of eight children in a poor family. She began playing the piano when she was age of three. The first song she learned was "God be With You, Till we Meet Again" and she played at her local church. Her first concert was a classical piano recital, when she was twelve. Her parents sat on the front row to watch her, but were made to move to the back of the hall to make way for white people. Simone said she would not to play until her parents were moved back to the front.[1][2] She remembered this event later when she got involved with the African-American Civil Rights Movement.

Simone's mother, Mary Kate Waymon was a strict Methodist minister. Her father, John Divine Waymon, was a handyman, and sometimes a barber, who was often ill. Mrs. Waymon worked as a maid and her employer, hearing of Simone's talent, gave them money for piano lessons.[3] After that, a local fund was made to help in carrying on her education. When she was 17, Simone moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She found more racism here when she applied for a scholarship at a local college. She had to take a test, and passed it, but she was not given the scholarship. When she asked the examiner why she was not given a scholarship, the examiner told her "because you're black."

After this, Simone became very passionate about the Civil Rights Movement. She began to earn money teaching piano and accompanying singers. This money helped her to study at the Juilliard School of Music in New York. She applied to study piano at the Curtis Institute, but was not successful. She believed that this too was because she was black, and because she was a woman.[4]

Early career (1954–1959)

Simone played the piano at the Midtown Bar & Grill on Pacific Avenue in Atlantic City to earn money for her studying. The owner said that she would only get the job if she would sing as well as play the piano. She did not want her mother to know that she was playing "the devil's music", so she started using the stage name Nina Simone. She got "Nina" from a nickname given to her by a boyfriend, and "Simone" from a French actress called Simone Signoret.[5] Simone played and sang a mixture of jazz, blues and classical music at the bar. She began to get fans.[6] In 1958 she recorded a a song called "I Loves You Porgy", from Porgy and Bess by George Gershwin. She had learned the song from a Billie Holiday album, and performed it as a favor for a friend. It became her only Billboard top 40 success in the United States. Soon, she recorded her first album Little Girl Blue on Bethlehem Records. Simone never earned money from the album because she sold the rights for $3000, missing out on more than $1 million of royalties.[7]

Simone then signed a contract with the record company Colpix Records and released several studio and live albums. Colpix let her have control over choosing the material that she recorded. Simone made sure she had control and did not really mind whether she had a recording contract or not. She only played pop music to make money for her classical music studies.[8]

Civil rights era (1964–1974)

In 1964, Simone began to work with the Dutch record label Philips. She began to record songs about her African-American origins and racial inequality. She recorded a live album called Nina Simone In Concert which included the song "Mississippi Goddam". It was about the murder of Medgar Evers and the bombing of a church in Birmingham, Alabama that killed four black children. The song was boycotted in some southern states.[9][10] With "Old Jim Crow" on the same album she reacts to the Jim Crow Laws.

After that, a civil rights was a common theme in Simone's songs. Simone performed and spoke at many civil rights meetings, like the Selma to Montgomery marches.[11] She sang a version Billie Holiday's song "Strange Fruit" (on Pastel Blues), a song about the lynching of black men in the South. She also a poem by W. Cuney called "Images" on her 1966 album Let It All Out, about the lack of pride in African-American women. Simone wrote "Four Women", a song about four different stereotypes of African-American women.[9] It was on her 1966 album Wild Is the Wind

Simone moved from Philips to RCA Victor in 1967. She sang "Backlash Blues", written by her friend Langston Hughes on her first RCA album, Nina Simone Sings The Blues. On Silk & Soul she recorded Billy Taylor's "I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free" and "Turning Point". The 1968 album Nuff Said has some live recordings from the Westbury Music Fair, April 7, 1968, three days after the murder of Martin Luther King, Jr. She dedicated the whole performance to him and sang "Why? (The King Of Love Is Dead)". This was a song written by her bass player straight after they heard the news of King's death.[12]

Together with Weldon Irvine, Simone turned Lorraine Hansberry's unfinished play To Be Young, Gifted and Black into a civil rights song. She performed it live on her 1970 album Black Gold. A studio recording was released as a single, and the song has been covered by Aretha Franklin and Donny Hathaway.[9][13]

Later life (1974–2003)

Simone left the United States in September 1970. She flew to Barbados. She thought that her husband and manager, Andrew Stroud, would tell her when she had to perform again. However, Stroud thought that Simone's sudden disappearance (and the fact that she had left behind her wedding ring) meant that she wanted a divorce. As her manager, Stroud was also in charge of Simone's income. This meant that after their separation Simone did not know anything about how her business was managed and what she was actually worth. When she came back to the United States, she found out that she was wanted for not paying taxes. She went back to Barbados again to get away from the authorities and prosecution.[14] She stayed in Barbados for quite some time, and had a long affair with the Prime Minister, Errol Barrow.[15][16] A close friend, singer Miriam Makeba, persuaded her to go to Liberia in Africa. After that she lived in Switzerland and the Netherlands. She went to live in France in 1992.

She recorded her last album for RCA Records, It Is Finished, during 1974. In 1978 CTI Records owner Creed Taylor persuaded her to record another album, Baltimore. This album got good reviews, but did not make much money.[17] Four years later Simone recorded Fodder On My Wings on a French record label. During the 1980s Simone performed regularly at Ronnie Scott's jazz club in London. She recorded an album there in 1984 called Live at Ronnie Scott's. On stage, Simone often seemed to be haughty and aloof but seemed to enjoy talking to her audiences. In 1987, her 1958 song "My Baby Just Cares For Me" was used in an advert for Chanel No. 5 perfume in the UK. After that, the song was released again and it went to number 5 in the UK singles chart, making Simone more popular in the UK. Her autobiography, I Put a Spell on You, was published in 1992 and she recorded her last album, A Single Woman, in 1993.

Death

In 1993 Simone went to live near Aix-en-Provence in Southern France. She was ill with breast cancer for several years. She died in her sleep at her home in Carry-le-Rouet, Bouches-du-Rhône on April 21, 2003. Her funeral service was attended by singers Miriam Makeba and Patti LaBelle, poet Sonia Sanchez, actor Ossie Davis and hundreds of other people. Elton John sent a flowers with the message "We were the greatest and I love you".[18] Simone's ashes were scattered in several African countries. She left behind a daughter, Lisa Celeste, who is now an actress and singer who took on the stage name Simone.[19]

References

  1. Simone. I Put a Spell on You. pp. 26. 
  2. Hampton. Break Down And Let It All Out. pp. 15. 
  3. Simone. I Put a Spell on You. pp. 21. 
  4. Simone. I Put a Spell on You. pp. 41–43. 
  5. Brun-Lambert. Nina Simone, het tragische lot van een uitzonderlijke zangeres. pp. 56. 
  6. Simone. I Put a Spell on You. pp. 48–52. 
  7. Simone. I Put a Spell on You. pp. 60. 
  8. Simone. I Put a Spell on You. pp. 65. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Mark Anthony Neal (2003-06-04). "Nina Simone: She Cast a Spell—and Made a Choice". http://www.seeingblack.com/2003/x060403/nina_simone.shtml. Retrieved 2007-08-14. 
  10. Simone. I Put a Spell on You. pp. 90–91. 
  11. "The Nina Simone Web: Chronology". 2003. http://boscarol.com/nina/html/manual/crono.html. Retrieved 2007-08-05. 
  12. Simone. I Put a Spell on You. pp. 114–115. 
  13. Lords, Frank. (1992). Nina Simone, La Legende (documentary) [DVD]. France, United Kingdom: Quantum Leap.
  14. Simone. I Put a Spell on You. pp. 120–122. 
  15. Simone. I Put a Spell on You. pp. 129–134. 
  16. Brun-Lambert. Nina Simone, het tragische lot van een uitzonderlijke zangeres. pp. 231. 
  17. Celeste Sunderland (2005-07-01). "All about Jazz: review "Fodder on My Wings" & "Baltimore"". http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=18123. Retrieved 2007-08-05. 
  18. "BBCnews: Funeral held for singer Simone". 2003-04-25. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/music/2975871.stm. Retrieved 2007-07-22. 
  19. Jonathan Frank. "Talking Broadway Seattle: Aida". http://www.talkinbroadway.com/regional/seattle/se54.html. Retrieved 2007-08-14. 

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