Eunice Kathleen Waymon, known professionally as Nina Simone, was an American singer, songwriter, musician, arranger, and civil rights, activist. Her music spanned styles including classical, jazz, blues, folk, R&B, gospel, and pop.
Nina Simone was known for using her musical platform to speak out. “I think women play a major part in opening the doors for better understanding around the world,” the “Strange Fruit” songstress once said. Though she chose to keep her personal life shrouded in secrecy, these facts grant VIP access into a life well-lived and the music that still lives on.
Nina Simone was born on 21 February 1933 and her birth name was Eunice Kathleen Waymon. She was born in North Carolina, USA. She took the stage Nina Simone from the Spanish word Nina (it was a nickname from a boyfriend at the time) and Simone from the French actress Simone Signoret.
Nina Simone received an honorary degree from the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia after she died. She had been denied admission to the Institute when she was wanting to study music. She attributed this to racial discrimination. She was offered a place a few years later but was over the admission age of 21 by then.
Nina Simone recorded over 40 albums during her career as a musician but never had a number 1 hit.
Among Nina Simone’s most popular songs are I Loves You, Porgy, My Baby Just Cares for Me, Mississippi Goddam, Sinnerman and Feeling Good. Many of her songs are covered by other artists, and they are almost more recognised for their meanings now than when she performed them.
Nina Simone suffered from manic depression and bipolar disorder and it is thought that she was battling breast cancer before she died.
Nine Simone had one daughter, Lisa Simone Kelly.
Nina Simone was passionate about the civil rights movement and much of her career was based on this. She became known as the voice of the civil rights movement. Mississippi Goddam was written in response to the 1963 assassination of Medgar Evers (an American civil rights activist) and the Birmingham, Alabama church bombing which killed 4 African American Girls.
A film called “What happened, Miss Simone?” was released in 2015 which documented Nina Simone’s life. There have been several theatre tours & shows documenting Nina Simone’s life across the world including Nina, Black is the Color of my Voice, and the Story of Nina Simone
Nina Simone refused to let her style of music be pigeon-holed into a genre or style. She did not want to be known for one style of music. She originally learned classical music on the piano when she was very young and used some of the influences from classical music in her performance and writing. She sang a mixture of jazz, blues, and folk music. Her style was unique, as was her voice, and the combination of the song and her voice gave a very dramatic performance alongside her strong personality which often spilled over in her shows when she would throw a tantrum or insult an audience member for not being attentive.
Nina Simone felt let down by America and left in 1970. She lived in Barbados, Africa, and Europe and died at her home in France.
Born: February 21, 1933, Tryon, NC
Died: April 21, 2003, Carry-le-Rouet, France