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Simone, Nina 1933–2003

Nina Simone 19332003

Singer, songwriter, pianist

Early Hope Crushed by Curtis Institute

Rose to Fame While Working Bars

Music Focused on Civil Rights

Spirated Down in Self Imposed Exile

Staged Comeback

Selected works

Sources

As outspoken as she is talented, as opinionated as she is eclectic, Nina Simone lived as she talked and sung as she lived. A gifted child prodigy who blossomed into the High Priestess of Soul in the 1960s, Simone assumed the roles of classical pianist, protest singer, American expatriate, and comeback queen all in a career that spanned more than four decades. While her overt and sometimes extreme statements and opinions have overshadowed her music, even critics cant ignore her soulful voice, which drapes over classically influenced piano lines in a way that defies genre. Neither as pianist nor as singer can she be categorized as a jazz performer, Leonard Feather wrote in the Los Angeles Times about a 1987 performance. Primarily she is an evoker of moods, often verging on melodrama. Simone was also a firm believer in speaking her mind and staying true to herself, even if that meant poor record sales, angry audiences, and a tempestuous reputation.

Early Hope Crushed by Curtis Institute

Born Eunice Kathleen Waymon on February 21, 1933, in Tyron, North Carolina, Simone was the sixth of eight children born to John Divine Waymon and his wife Mary Kate, who presided over their family in a house filled with music. Everything that happened to me as a child involved music, Simone recalled in her autobiography, I Put A Spell On You. Everybody played music. There was never any formal training; we learned to play the same way we learned to walk, it was that natural. While the other Waymon children had a love and talent for music, it became clear that young Eunice had a special affinity, a gift. By the age of six, Simone was the regular pianist at the familys church.

At about the same time, to earn extra money for the family, Simones mother had begun to clean the house of a white woman named Mrs. Miller who took great interest in the piano talent of Eunice. Mrs. Miller suggested that her special talent needed to be fostered with formal training and upon learning the Waymon family couldnt afford it, offered to pay for Eunices piano lessons herself. Soon, Eunice was the pupil of Muriel Massinovitch, an Englishwoman whod moved to Tyron with her Russian painter husband and a strict devotee of Bach, a devotion which she passed on to her student. He is technically perfect, Simone declared in her autobiography. When you play Bachs music you have to understand that hes a mathematician and all the notes you play add up to somethingthey make sense. When I understood Bachs music I never wanted to be anything other than a concert pianist; Bach made me dedicate my life to music, and it was Mrs. Massinovitch who introduced me to his world.

Simone then set off to become the first black concert pianist. During her last year of high school she had won a scholarship to the Juilliard School of Music in New York for one year. Her plan was to use that year at Juilliard to prepare her for the scholarship examination at the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, a monumental stepping stone if one wanted to become a concert pianist. But it was not to be as the Curtis Institute rejected her application saying her level of piano playing wasnt good enough. I just couldnt

At a Glance

Born Eunice Kathleen Waymon on February 21, 1933, in Tyron, No died on April 21, 2003, in Carry-le-Rouet, France; daughter of Mary Kate (a minister) and John Divine (a dry cleaner, barber, handyman, and truck driver) Waymon; married Don Ross, 1958 (divorced, 1959); married Andrew Stroud, 1961 (divorced c. 1970); children: (second marriage) Lisa Celeste, Education: Studied piano with Muriel Massinovitch, Joyce Carrol, Dr. Carl Friedburg, and Vladimir Sokhaloff; attended Juilliard School of Music, 195051.

Career: Arlene Smith Studio, Philadelphia, accompanist and instructor, mid-1950s; self employed accompanist and piano tutor, mid-1950s; Midtown Bar and Grill, Atlantic City, NJ, performer, 195456; performed at various clubs in Philadelphia, 1956; performed at supper clubs in New York City and upstate New York, late 1950s; professional singer, songwriter, pianist, and recording artist, 1957-2003.

believe it had happened, Simone recalled in her autobiography, and all I could think about was what I had given up over the years to get to where I was the day I heard Curtis didnt want me, which was nowhere. It was so hard to understand. Simone resolved to work harder and take the scholarship examination the next year, an idea she abandoned when the perception arose that the reason she didnt get into the Curtis Institute was because she was black.

Rose to Fame While Working Bars

Following the disappointment with the Curtis Institute and with her family having migrated from North Carolina to Philadelphia, Simone decided to stay in the Philadelphia area and give piano lessons. When she learned one of her students, a particularly poor student at that, was going to be earning twice as much as she did by playing piano in a bar in Atlantic City for the summer, she decided to do the same. The only problem was Simones staunchly religious motheran ordained Methodist ministerwould take a dim view of her daughter walking into a bar let alone working in one. To keep her mother from finding out she decided to come up with a stage name. She had loved the way an old boyfriend had often called her niña, Spanish for little girl, and she also liked the name Simone from the French actress, Simone Signoret. Hence her stage name became Nina Simone.

The Midtown Bar and Grill was a seedy, Irish bar two blocks from Atlantic Citys boardwalk, and in the summer of 1954 served as Simones introduction to the performing life. For six hours a nightwith a fifteen minute break each hour, where shed sip milk at the barSimone first began to blend the genres that influenced her into a fresh synthesis of music. I knew hundreds of popular songs and dozens of classical pieces, she wrote in her autobiography, so what I did was combine them: I arrived prepared with classical pieces, hymns and gospel songs and improvised on those, occasionally slipping in a part from a popular tune. On her first night, the owner told her that her playing was fine, but if she wanted to keep the job, shed have to sing as well. Soon, the drunken regulars had filtered out of the Midtown, replaced by packed crowds of young people enthused by the new style of music they were hearing.

Simone then moved from the Midtown to more upscale supper clubs in Philadelphia where she continued to have success and build an audience. In 1957 Simone hired an agent, Jerry Fields, who put her in contact with the head of New Yorks Bethlehem Records to do an album. After recording the album, released the next year called Little Girl Blue, Simone unknowingly signed a contract that gave away all her rightsa mistake she estimated, that cost her over a million dollars. The first single from the album, a version of George and Ira Gershwins I Loves You, Porgy, attracted much attention and set the stage for her first real concert at New Yorks Town Hall. By this time she was signed to another label, Colpix, who released The Amazing Nina Simone and would also record and release the concert at Town Hall. At the time John S. Wilson of the New York Times hailed Simone as a unique and gifted interpreter who made each song her own. [By] the time she has finished turning a song this way and that way, poking experimentally into unexpected crannies she finds in it, or suddenly leaping on it and whaling the daylights out of it, the song has lost most of its original colorization and has become, one might say, Simonized.

Music Focused on Civil Rights

Soon Simone was the darling of the Greenwich Village music scene and began to tour America and abroad. While some of her performances were often in jazz clubs, Simone long resisted the notion that she was a jazz singer, regarding the term as a racial insult. To most white people, jazz means black and jazz means dirt and thats not what I play, she declared to Brantley Bardin in a 1997 Details interview. I play black classical music. Thats why I dont like the term jazz, and Duke Ellington didnt like it eitherits a term thats simply used to identify black people. In the early 1960s Simones feelings of racial oppression merged with the influential friendship of civil rights activist and playwright Lorraine Hansberry. Finding a political voice was not hard for the outspoken Simone, and her songs soon began to merge political thought from the civil rights movement with the blend of classical, blues, and gospel, causing some to label her a protest singer, another term she dismissed.

Inspired by the bombing of a Baptist church in Alabama, which killed four children, and the assassination of civil rights leader Medgar Evers in Mississippi, Simone wrote Mississippi Goddam, which became an anthem of sorts for the civil rights movement and won her the admiration of such artists and leaders as Stokely Carmichael, Miriam Makeba, Langston Hughes, and James Baldwin. For the rest of the decade Simone was regarded as the true singer of the civil rights movement and contributed songs like Sunday in Savannah, Backlash Blues, and a song declared by the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) to be the black national anthem, To Be Young, Gifted, and Black. While touring, recording, and working for civil rights won Simone praise and notoriety, her home life slowly unraveled.

Married in 1960 to former police detective Andy Stroud, who became her manager, the couple had a daughter, Lisa Celeste, in 1961 and Simone barely saw her grow up. After Lisa was born I had sworn to keep a check on the pace of my life, Simone wrote in her autobiography, but in the movement I lived at twice the speed I ever had and music and politics took up my whole life. I didnt have personal ambitions anymoreI wanted what millions of other Americans wanted, and enjoying any private landmarks was impossible because the outside world always managed to butt in. Simone and her daughter would be periodically estranged from one another for the next thirty years.

Spirated Down in Self Imposed Exile

Simone and Stroud divorced in 1970 and Simone began what would be a fifteen-year exile from the United States. Disillusioned by the civil rights movement following the deaths of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Lorraine Hansberry, and Langston Hughes; disturbed by the lack of respect given to her by noisy, talkative audiences; hounded by the Internal Revenue Service who accused her of tax evasion; and fed up with the pirates of the record companies who she claimed never compensated her properly for her records, Simone left. First to Barbados, then in 1974 to Liberia in Africa. I left this country [America], because I didnt like this country, she explained in an interview with Jet in 1985. I didnt like what it was doing to my people and I left.

For some of the time in Liberia, Simone had her daughter with her and when the need for better schooling arose, the two moved to Switzerland in 1976. At this point Simones career as a singer was virtually nonexistent, and in an attempt to revive it she went to London where a con man convinced her hed sponsor her and get her performances. Instead, he robbed and beat her, then abandoned her in London. When the authorities did nothing, Simone attempted suicide by ingesting 35 sleeping pills. She woke up the next day in a London hospital glad to be alive, and hopeful for the future, realizing she couldnt get any lower.

Simone spent the next two years playing small dates and then moved to Paris where in 1978 she recorded the album, Baltimore, for a small, independent label. Phrasing in spontaneous outbursts that vary in style from blunt, speech-song to jazz-gospel melisma, Rolling Stones Stephen Holden wrote, the singer runs the emotional gamut from fear, sorrow and tenderness to a final exhilarating hiss of challenge. Baltimore is a stunning comeback by one of the very greatest. Although the record was well-received, Simone would have another recording drought that would last seven years.

Staged Comeback

In 1985 Simone returned from her self-imposed exile to the United States and played a series of concerts, recorded the album Ninas Back, and even settled into a home in Los Angeles. The response from her fans was gracious and Simone appeared to have mellowed. Im ready to accept what the public has to give me, she confessed to Don Heckman of the Los Angeles Times. And theyre giving me a lot. The response Ive been getting at all of my programs lately has been fantastic. I wasnt ready for that before, but now I want recognition in this country. Simone also made it clear that she wanted a hit record, telling Alexis DeVeaux of Essence that being a revolutionary is fine, but it doesnt pay the bills. Before now, I was always led by whatever was going on politically at the time, she said. At this point in time, my music is chosen because I want to make a hit record. Thats entirely different from the way I chose it before. And it doesnt have anything to do with whats going on in this country. It has to do with whats best for Nina Simone.

Simone would have to wait another two years for a hit and it was an unlikely one at that. For a Chanel perfume commercial in England, the advertising agency chose My Baby Just Cares For Me, the last song she recorded for the Little Girl Blue album in 1958. The song was re-released in Europe in 1987 and became a hit. The hectic pace of America, however, proved too much for Simone and she moved to the Netherlands for a few years before settling in Bouc-Bel-Air in the South of France in 1991. That same year she published her autobiography, I Put A Spell On You, which received positive reviews. Two years later, Simone signed to the Elektra label and recorded her first recording for a major label in nearly twenty years, A Single Woman. Labeled a hit and miss affair by Zan Stewart of the Los Angeles Times, Kristine McKenna of Musician hailed the album calling it, a classy piece of work. Arion Berger of Rolling Stone said that while Simones voice was in fine form, song selection and heavy-handed production work by Andre Fischer limited the albums potential. Simone was also featured on the soundtrack of Point of No Return in 1993 as her music served to calm the lead character played by Bridget Fonda. She also made a brief appearance in the film.

Simone made some unwanted headlines in 1995, none of which had to do with music or politics. While gardening in her backyard, she was disturbed by the loudness of two teenage boys swimming next door. When they persisted to be loud after she asked them twice to keep it down, Simone responded by shooting a buckshot rifle over the hedge towards the two boys. One of them was slightly injured and Simone was ordered to pay a fine of $4,600 plus damages to the injured boys family. She was also put on probation for 18 months and forced to undergo psychological counseling where it was discovered that Simone was incapable of evaluating the consequences of her actions. Later that same year Simone was fined $5,000 for causing and leaving the scene of a car accident that occurred in 1993.

From there, the path was brighter for Simone with Verve, Rhino, and RCA all releasing anthology collections of her music in 1996 and 1997. And while she remained outspokenshe openly disliked America and thought the country would die like flies as she predicted in Mississippi GoddamSimone insisted her anger had subsided. My anger was fire, she told Alison Powell of Interview in 1997, and I was pushing that all that time, but Im not angry now. Im philosophical, and I am happy where I am because I cant change the world. Im getting older and I have no business being out there preaching like I did.

Simone spent the last eight years of her life at her home in Carry-le-Rouet in France. On April 21, 2003, she died of natural causes. People from around the world mourned her death. Over 300 grievers attended her funeral at Our Lady of the Assumption church, including the South African singer Miriam Makeba, one of Simones close friends. Ben Ngubane, a South African leader said of Simone in the Africa News Service, It is with profound regret that we have received the news of the death of Nina Simone. Ms. Simone was an artist par excellence who lent her unique talent to contributing to the betterment of the world. Simones daughter, who has been seen on Broadway in a new version of Aida, spoke at her mothers funeral as quoted by the Europe Intelligence Wire: She loved France and the French. I ask you not to let her memory fade. Talk about her, listen to her music.

In a 1997 interview Simone gave to Alison Powell, she bemoaned another point about America: the younger generations lack of historical knowledge. Their parents dont teach them anything about history. If they had, we wouldnt need to give this interview. People would know who the hell I am, they would know who Lorraine Hansberry was, they would know who Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was, they would know who Malcolm X was, and get their inspiration from them. She would be happy to know, then, that only three months after she died BMG Heritage released a two-disc anthology of her work, running the gamut from her very first recording to her very last. Nina Simone left a powerful impression on the world, one that is not likely to dissipate any time soon as more and more people are introduced to her legacy and to her incredible, wonderful music.

Selected works

Books

I Put A Spell On You, Pantheon, 1991.

Discography

Little Girl Blue, Bethlehem Records, 1958.

The Amazing Nina Simone, Columbia Picture Records (Colpix), 1959.

Ninas Choice, Columbia Picture Records (Colpix), 1963.

I Put a Spell on You, Philips, 1965.

Baltimore, CTI, 1978.

Ninas Back, VPI, 1985.

Dont Let Me Be Misunderstood, Mercury, 1988.

A Single Woman, Elektra, 1993.

(Soundtrack) Point of No Return, RCA, 1993.

The Essential, volumes 1 and 2, RCA, 1993.

Sings Nina (Jazz Master 58), Verve, 1996.

Saga of the Good Life and Hard Times, RCA, 1997.

Anthology, BMG Heritage, 2003.

Sources

Books

Gregory, Hugh, Soul Music A-Z, Blandford, 1991.

Simone, Nina, with Stephen Cleary, I Put A Spell On You, Pantheon, 1991.

Periodicals

Africa News Service, April 26, 2003.

Black Enterprise, September 1992, p. 14.

Details, January, 1997, p. 66.

Downbeat, July 2003, p. 20.

Ebony, February 1992, p. 20.

Entertainment Weekly, November 29, 1996, p. 93.

Essence, October 1985, p. 73.

Europe Intelligence Wire, April 25, 2003.

Globe and Mail (Toronto, Canada), April 26, 2003.

Interview, January 1997, p. 76.

Jet, September 4, 1980, p. 24; April 22, 1985, p. 54; March 24, 1996, p. 54; December 10, 2001, p. 51.

Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service, July 15, 2003, p. K6560.

Los Angeles Times, July 30 1985, p. VII; January 31, 1987, p. VI4; September 24, 1993, p. F10.

Musician, November 1993.

New York Times, October 22, 1960; May 8, 1993, p. A16; August 8, 1993, p. B24.

New York Times Book Review, April 19,1992, p. 20.

Reuters News Service, July 25, 1995; August 24, 1995.

Rolling Stone, August 10, 1978; November 11, 1993, p. 73.

Brian Escamilla and Catherine V. Donaldson

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Simone, Nina 1933–

Nina Simone 1933

Singer, songwriter, pianist

The Piano Lessons

From Eunice Waymon to Nina Simone

Not A Jazz Singer

The Exile

Ninas Back

Selected discography

Sources

Image not available for copyright reasons

As outspoken as she is talented, as opinionated as she is eclectic, Nina Simone lives as she talks and sings as she lives. A gifted child prodigy who blossomed into the High Priestess of Soul in the 1960s, Simone has assumed the roles of classical pianist, protest singer, American expatriate, and comeback queen all in a career that spans more than four decades. While her overt and sometimes extreme statements and opinions have overshadowed her music, even critics cant ignore her soulful voice, which drapes over classically influenced piano lines in a way that defies genre. Neither as pianist nor as singer can she be categorized as a jazz performer, Leonard Feather wrote in the Los Angeles Times about a 1987 performance. Primarily she is an evoker of moods, often verging on melodrama. Simone is also a firm believer in speaking her mind and staying true to herself, even if that means poor record sales, angry audiences, and a tempestuous reputation.

Born Eunice Kathleen Waymon, February 21, 1933 in Tyron, North Carolina, Simone was the sixth of eight children born to John Divine Waymon and his wife Mary Kate, who presided over their family in a house filled with music. Everything that happened to me as a child involved music, Simone recalled in her autobiography,/Put A Spell On You.Everybody played music. There was never any formal training; we learned to play the same way we learned to walk, it was that natural. While the other Waymon children had a love and talent for music, it became clear that young Eunice had a special affinity, a gift. By the age of six, Simone was the regular pianist at the familys church.

The Piano Lessons

At about the same time, to earn extra money for the family, Simones mother had begun to clean the house of a white woman named Mrs. Miller who took great interest in the piano talent of Eunice. Mrs. Miller suggested that her special talent needed to be fostered with formal training and upon learning the Waymon family couldnt afford it, offered to pay for Eunices piano lessons herself. Soon, Eunice was the pupil of Muriel Massinovitch, an Englishwoman whod moved to Tyron with her Russian painter husband and a strict devotee of Bach, a devotion which she passed on to her student. He is technically perfect, Simone declares in her

At a Glance

Born Eunice Kathleen Waymon, February 21, 1935, in Tyron, NC; daughter of Mary Kate (a minister) and John Divine (a dry cleaner, barber, handyman, and truck driver) Waymon; married Don Ross, 1958 (divorced, 1959); married Andrew Stroud, 1961 (divorced c. 1970); children: (second marriage) Lisa Celeste.Education: Studied piano with Muriel Massinovitch, Joyce Carrol, Dr. Carl Friedburg, and Vladimir Sokhaloff; attended Juilliard School of Music, 1950-51.

Singer, songwriter, pianist. Accompanist and instructor at Arlene Smith Studio, Philadelphia, mid-1950s; accompanist and piano tutor; performer at Midtown Bar and Grill, Atlantic City, 1954; performed at various clubs in Philadelphia, 1956; performed at supper clubs in NYC and upstate NY; signed with Bethlehem Records, 1957; released Little Ciri Blue, 1958; signed with Columbia Pictures Records (Colpix), 1959, and released The Amazing Nina Simone; performed at NYC Town Hall, 1959; traveled to Nigeria with American Society of African Culture, 1961; signed with Philips Records, 1963, and RCA Records, 1966; made Carnegie Hall debut, New York City, 1965; played frequently at the Village Gate, New York City; toured widely throughout Europe and the U.S., 1960s-90s; wrote, with Stephen Cleary, autobiography Put a Spell on You, Pantheon, 1991; appeared in film Point of No Return, 1993;

Addresses: Home Bouc-Bel-Air, France.

autobiography. When you play Bachs music you have to understand that hes a mathematician and all the notes you play add up to something-they make sense....When I understood Bachs music I never wanted to be anything other than a concert pianist; Bach made me dedicate my life to music, and it was Mrs. Massinovitch who introduced me to his world.

Simone then set off to become the first black concert pianist. During her last year of high school she had won a scholarship to the Julliard School of Music in New York for one year. Her plan was to use that year at Julliard to prepare her for the scholarship examination at the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, a monumental stepping stone if one wanted to become a concert pianist. But it was not to be as the Curtis Institute rejected her application saying her level of piano playing wasnt good enough. I just couldnt believe it had happened, Simone recalled, and all I could think about was what I had given up over the years to get to where I was the day I heard Curtis didnt want me, which was nowhere. It was so hard to understand. Simone resolved to work harder and take the scholarship examination the next year, an idea she abandoned when the perception arose that the reason she didnt get in the Curtis Institute was because she was black, a claim she holds as true.

From Eunice Waymon to Nina Simone

Following the disappointment with the Curtis Institute and with her family having migrated from North Carolina to Philadelphia, Simone decided to stay in the Philadelphia area and give piano lessons. When she learned one of her students, a particularly poor student at that, was going to be earning twice as much as she did by playing piano in a bar in Atlantic City for the summer, she decided to do the same. The only problem was Simones staunchly religious mother-an ordained Methodist minister-would take a dim view of her daughter walking into a bar let alone working in one. To keep her mother from finding out she decided to come up with a stage name. She had loved the way an old boyfriend had often called her Nina, Spanish for little girl, and she also liked the name Simone from the French actress, Simone Signoret. So there it was: Nina Simone.

The Midtown Bar and Grill was a seedy, Irish bar two blocks from Atlantic Citys boardwalk, and in the summer of 1954 served as Simones introduction to the performing life. For six hours a night-with a fifteen minute break each hour, where shed sip milk at the bar--Simone first began to blend the genres that influenced her into a fresh synthesis of music. I knew hundreds of popular songs and dozens of classical pieces, she wrote in her autobiography, so what I did was combine them: I arrived prepared with classical pieces, hymns and gospel songs and improvised on those, occasionally slipping in a part from a popular tune. On her first night, the owner told her that her playing was fine, but if she wanted to keep the job, shed have to sing as well. Soon, the drunken regulars had filtered out of the Midtown, replaced by packed crowds of young people enthused by the new style of music they were hearing.

Simone then moved from the Midtown to more upscale supper clubs in Philadelphia where she continued to have success and build an audience. In 1957 Simone hired an agent, Jerry Fields, who put her in contact with the head of New Yorks Bethlehem Records to do an album. After recording the album, released the next year called Little Girl Blue, Simone unknowingly signed a contract that gave away all her rights-a mistake she estimated, that cost her over a million dollars. The first single from the album, a version of George and Ira Gershwins I Loves You, Porgy, attracted much attention and set the stage for her first real concert at New Yorks Town Hall. By this time she was signed to another label, Colpix, who released The Amazing Nina Simone and would also record and release the concert at Town Hall. At the time John S. Wilson of the New York Times hailed Simone as a unique and gifted interpreter who makes each song her own. [By] the time she has finished turning a song this way and that way, poking experimentally into unexpected crannies she finds in it, or suddenly leaping on it and whaling the daylights out of it, the song has lost most of its original colorization and has become, one might say, Simonized.

Not A Jazz Singer

Soon Simone was the darling of the Greenwich Village music scene and began to tour America and abroad. While some of her performances were often in jazz clubs, Simone has long resisted the notion that she was a jazz singer, regarding the term as a racial insult. To most white people, jazz means black and jazz means dirt and thats not what I play, she declared to Brantley Bardin in a 1997 Details interview. I play black classical music. Thats why I dont like the term jazz, and Duke Ellington didnt like it either-its a term thats simply used to identify black people. In the early sixties, Simones feelings of racial oppression merged with the influential friendship of civil rights activist and playwright Lorraine Hansberry. Finding a political voice was not hard for the outspoken Simone, and her songs soon began to merge political thought from the civil rights movement with the blend of classical, blues, and gospel, causing some to label her a protest singer, another term she dismissed.

Inspired by the bombing of a Baptist church in Alabama, which killed four children, and the assassination of civil rights leader Medgar Evers in Mississippi, Simone wrote Mississippi Goddam, which became an anthem of sorts for the civil rights movement and won her the admiration of such artists and leaders as Stokely Carmichael, Miriam Makeba, Langston Hughes, and James Baldwin.

For the rest of the decade Simone was regarded as the true singer of the civil rights movement and contributed songs like Sunday in Savannah, Backlash Blues, and a song declared by the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) to be the black national anthem, To Be Young, Gifted, and Black. And while touring, recording, and working for civil rights won Simone praise and notoriety, her home life slowly unraveled.

Married in 1960 to former police detective Andy Stroud, who became her manager, the couple had a daughter, Lisa Celeste, in 1961 and Simone barely saw her grow up. After Lisa was born I had sworn to keep a check on the pace of my life, Simone wrote in her autobiography, but in the movement I lived at twice the speed I ever had and music and politics took up my whole life. I didnt have personal ambitions anymore-I wanted what millions of other Americans wanted, and enjoying any private landmarks was impossible because the outside world always managed to butt in. Simone and her daughter would be periodically estranged from one another for the next thirty years.

The Exile

Simone and Stroud divorced in 1970 and Simone began what would be a fifteen-year exile from the United States. Disillusioned by the civil rights movement following the deaths of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Lorraine Hansberry, and Langston Hughes; disturbed by the lack of respect given to her by noisy, talkative audiences; hounded by the Internal Revenue Service who accused her of tax evasion; and fed up with the pirates of the record companies who she claimed have never compensated her properly for her records, Simone left. First to Barbados, then in 1974, Liberia in Africa. I left this country [America], because I didnt like this country, she explained in an interview with Jet in 1985. I didnt like what it was doing to my people and I left.

For some of the time in Liberia, Simone had her daughter with her and when the need for better schooling arose, the two moved to Switzerland in 1976. At this point Simones career as a singer was virtually nonexistent, and in an attempt to revive it went to London where a con man convinced her hed sponsor her and get her performances. Instead, he robbed and beat her, then abandoned her in London. When the authorities did nothing, Simone attempted suicide by ingesting 35 sleeping pills. She woke up the next day in a London hospital glad to be alive, and hopeful for the future, realizing she couldnt get any lower.

Simone spent the next two years playing small dates and then moved to Paris where in 1978 she recorded the album, Baltimore, for a small, independent label. Phrasing in spontaneous outbursts that vary in style from blunt, speech-song to jazz-gospel melisma,Rolling Stones Stephen Holden wrote, the singer runs the emotional gamut from fear, sorrow and tenderness to a final exhilarating hiss of challenge ....Baltimore is a stunning comeback by one of the very greatest. Although the record was well-received, Simone would have another recording drought that would last seven years.

Ninas Back

In 1985 Simone returned from her self-imposed exile to the United States and played a series of concerts, recorded the album Ninas Back, and even settled into a home in Los Angeles. The response from her fans was gracious and Simone appeared to have mellowed. Tm ready to accept what the public has to give me, she confessed to Don Heckman of the Los Angeles Times.And theyre giving me a lot. The response Ive been getting at all of my programs lately has been fantastic. I wasnt ready for that before, but now I want recognition in this country. Simone also made it clear that she wanted a hit record, telling Alexis DeVeaux of Essence that being a revolutionary is fine, but it doesnt pay the bills. Before now, I was always led by whatever was going on politically at the time, she said. At this point in time, my music is chosen because I want to make a hit record. Thats entirely different from the way I chose it before....And it doesnt have anything to do with whats going on in this country. It has to do with whats best for Nina Simone.

Simone would have to wait another two years for a hit and it was an unlikely one at that. For a Chanel perfume commercial in England, the advertising agency chose My Baby Just Cares For Me, the last song she recorded for the Bethlehem album in 1958. The song was re-released in Europe in 1987 and became a hit. The hectic pace of America, however, proved too much for Simone and she moved to the Netherlands for a few years before settling in Bouc-Bel-Air in the South of France in 1991. That same year she published her autobiography, I Put A Spell On You, which received positive reviews. Two years later, Simone signed to the Elektra label and recorded her first recording for a major label in nearly twenty years, A Single Woman. Labeled a hit and miss affair by Zan Stewart of the Los Angeles Times, Kristine McKenna of Musician hailed the album calling it, a classy piece of work. Arion Berger of Rolling Stone said that while Simones voice was in fine form, song selection and heavy-handed production work by Andre Fischer limited the albums potential. Simone was also featured on the soundtrack of Point of No Return in 1993 as her music served to calm the lead character played by Bridget Fonda. She also made a brief appearance in the film.

Simone made some unwanted headlines in 1995, none of which had to do with music or politics. While gardening in her backyard, she was disturbed by the loudness of two teenage boys swimming next door. When they persisted to be loud after she asked them twice to keep it down, Simone responded by shooting a buckshot rifle over the hedge towards the two boys. One of them was slightly injured and Simone was ordered to pay a fine of $4,600 plus damages to the injured boys family. She was also put on probation for 18 months and forced to undergo psychological counseling where it was discovered that Simone was incapable of evaluating the consequences of her act. Later that same year Simone was fined $5,000 for causing and leaving the scene of a car accident that occurred in 1993.

Since then, the path has been brighter for Simone with Verve, Rhino, and RCA all releasing anthology collections of her music in 1996 and 1997. And while shes still outspoken-she openly dislikes America and thinks the country will die like flies as she predicted in Mississippi Goddam-Simone insists her anger has subsided. My anger was fire, she told Alison Powell of Interview in 1997, and I was pushing that all that time, but Im not angry now. Im philosophical, and I am happy where I am because I cant change the world. Im getting older and I have no business being out there preaching like I did.

Selected discography

Albums

Little Girl Blue, Bethlehem, 1958.

Nina Simone & Her Friends, Bethlehem, 1959,

The Amazing Nina Simone, Colpix, 1959.

Nina Simone At Town Hall, Colpix, 1960.

At Newport, Colpix, 1961.

Forbidden Fruit, Colpix, 1961.

At the Village Gate, Colpix, 1962.

Sings Ellington, Colpix, 1962.

Ninas Choice, Colpix, 1963.

At Carnegie Hall, Colpix, 1963.

Broadway-Blues-Ballads, Philips, 1964.

Folksy Nina, Colpix, 1964.

In Concert, Philips, 1964.

I Put A Spell On You, Philips, 1965.

Let It All Out, Philips, 1966.

Pastel Blues, Philips, 1966.

Wild Is The Wind, Philips, 1966.

With Strings, Colpix, 1966.

High Priestess of Soul, Philips, 1967.

Silk & Soul, RCA, 1967.

Sings the Blues, RCA, 1967.

Nuff Said, RCA, 1968.

The Best of Nina Simone, Philips, 1969.

And Piano!, RCA, 1969.

To Love Somebody, RCA, 1969.

Black Gold, RCA, 1970.

The Best of Nina Simone, RCA, 1971.

Here Comes the Sun, RCA, 1971.

Gifted & Black, Canyon, 1971.

Emergency Ward!, RCA, 1972.

Live at Berkeley, Stroud, 1973.

It Is Finished, RCA, 1974.

Lamentations, Versatile, 1977.

Black Soul, RCA, 1977.

Pure Gold, RCA, 1978.

Baltimore, CTI, 1978.

Cry Before I Go, Manhattan, 1985.

Ninas Back, VPI, 1985.

Dont Let Me Be Misunderstood, Mercury, 1988.

The Best of Nina Simone, RCA, 1989.

The Blues, Novus, 1991.

The Best of the Colpix Years, Roulette, 1992.

A Single Woman, Elektra, 1993.

(Soundtrack), Point of No Return, RCA, 1993.

The Essentials, RCA, 1993.

The Essentials, vol. 2, RCA, 1993.

Feeling Good, Mercury, 1994.

After Hours, Verve, 1995.

The Colpix Years, Rhino, 1996.

Sings Nina (Jazz Masters 58), Verve, 1996.

Saga of the Good Life and Hard Times, RCA, 1997.

Sources

Books

Gregory, Hugh, Soul Music A-Z, Blandford, 1991. Simone, Nina with Stephen Cleary, I Put A Spell on You, Pantheon, 1991.

Periodicals

Black Enterprise, September 1992. p. 14.

Details, January 1997, p. 66.

Ebony, February 1992, p. 20.

Entertainment Weekly, November 29, 1996, p. 93.

Essence, October 1985, p. 73.

Interview, January 1997, p. 76.

Jet, September 4, 1980, p. 24; April 22, 1985, p. 54;

March 24, 1996, p. 54

Los Angeles Times, July 30, 1985, p. V11; January 31, 1987, p. V14; September 24, 1993, p. F10.

Musician, November 1993.

New York Times Book Review, April 19, 1992, p. 20.

Reuters News Service, July 25, 1995; August 24,1995.

Rolling Stone, August 10, 1978; November 11, 1993, p. 73.

Brian Escamilla

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Simone, Nina

Nina Simone

Singer, pianist

An Eccentric Diva

Oppression of a Prodigy

A Single Woman

Selected discography

Sources

For more than three decades Nina Simones remarkable career has been fueled by an unswerving resolve to do things her own way. Noted for her soul-stirring voice and eclectic musical meanderings, Simones music has often been overshadowed by her controversial politics and dedication to the black power movement of the 1960s. Combining elements of classical, jazz, African folk, blues, gospel, and pop, her music has been exceptionally difficult to categorize and attempts to label her a jazz singer have met with Simones angry accusations of racial pigeon-holing. Though her caustic demeanor and outspoken opinions have left many critics divided, the temperamental diva has always possessed an uncanny ability to connect with her audience.

Critics who have followed Simones career for the last 30 years offer testimony of her erratic talents. John S. Wilson of the New York Times stated in 1960 that Simone defies easy classification. He found pop, jazz, folk, and theater music in her work, but added that she has a singular talent for slipping in and out of these classifications, and making her music unique. [By] the time she has finished turning a song this way and that way, poking experimentally into unexpected crannies she finds in it, or suddenly leaping on it and whaling the daylights out of it, the song has lost most of its original coloration and has become, one might say, Simonized.

Five years later, Wilson elaborated on Simones methodology. He noted her ability to appear to be playing piano and singing in a very casual manner even within what is obviously a carefully constructed format.... She sits at the piano, idly fingering the keys, humming, murmuring, talking and singing a lyric that gradually shapes into a melody that... she molds and builds with great deliberation and skill. Though in 1978, Wilson found Simone a somewhat more spontaneous presence. He said of her performance of the song Everything Must Change, [It] grew in the classic Simone manner from a mumble and a quaver through an intense, breathy declaration, swelling to a shout that burst into gospel excitement that swept the audience into the performance.

An Eccentric Diva

Wilson articulated the overlap of Simones personality and musical method. Of a 1979 performance he opined in the New York Times, Miss Simone is still, as she always has been, an angry woman. Sometimes that anger could be harnessed to produce a stunning performance, Wilson explained, but in this particular case,

For the Record

Born Eunice Kathleen Waymon, February 21, 1935, in Tyron, NC; daughter of Mary Kate (a minister) and John Divine (a performer, dry cleaner, barber, and truck driver) Waymon; married Don Ross, 1958 (divorced, 1959); married Andrew Stroud, 1961 (divorced c. 1970); children: (second marriage) Lisa Celeste. Education: Studied piano with Muriel Massinovitch, Joyce Carrol, Dr. Carl Friedburg, and Vladimir Sokhaloff; attended Juilliard School of Music, 1950-51.

Accompanied church choir on piano as a child; accompanist at Arlene Smith Studio, Philadelphia, mid-1950s; formed accompanist business; performer at Midtown Bar and Grill, Atlantic City, NJ, 1954; performed at various clubs in Philadelphia, 1956; began performing at supper clubs in New York City and upstate New York; signed with Bethlehem Records, 1957; released Little Girl Blue, 1958; signed with Columbia Pictures Records (Colpix), 1959, and released The Amazing Nina Simone; performed at New York City Town Hall, 1959; traveled to Nigeria with American Society of African Culture, 1961; signed with Philips Records, 1963, and RCA Records, 1966; made Carnegie Hall Debut, New York City, 1965; played frequently at the Village Gate, New York City; toured widely throughout Europe and the U.S. Author (with Stephen Cleary) of autobiography I Put a Spell on You, Pantheon, 1991. Appeared in film Point of No Return, 1993.

Addresses: Record company Elektra Entertainment, 75 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10019.

her anger was focused on personal annoyances and, instead of stimulating her performance, it tended to stifle it. This is, of course, the entertainers burden, one which Simone actively publicized and made no effort to hide.

Indeed, sometimes her powerful sense of self-worth and privilege worked very much to her advantage. As Don Shewey described in the Village Voice in 1983, Shes not a pop singer, shes a diva, a hopeless eccentric ... who has so thoroughly co-mingled her odd talent and brooding temperament that she has turned herself into a force of nature, an exotic creature spied so infrequently that every appearance is legendary. That same year, New York Times music critic Stephen Holden called Simone obstreperous and brilliant, venturing, Rooted in extreme emotional ambivalence, her performances have the aura of sacramental rites, in which a priestess and her flock work to establish a mystical communion.

Over the years critics have praised Simones innate ability to interpret the work of others. Among her most moving pieces have been songs previously recorded by more mainstream artists. Holden reported, Repeatedly, Miss Simone took familiar material and recharged it with her ferocious pianism and radically personal interpretations. She turned the ubiquitous My Way into an outspoken feminist anthem, and Gilbert OSullivans Alone Again (Naturally) into an autobiographical epic that recounts the death of her father and its emotional aftermath with an astonishing candor. Don Shewey elaborated that when Simone sings My Way, she means every word of it just as much as when she slams the piano on Pirate Jenny, stares down white America with serene implacability, and hisses Thatll learn ya!

Oppression of a Prodigy

Born Eunice Kathleen Waymon in Tyron, North Carolina, Simone displayed an astonishing musical aptitude at a very early age. In her 1991 autobiography, I Put a Spell on You, the roots of her anger and frustration are evident as Simone details growing up amid an atmosphere of racism, poverty, and oppression. The Depression-era South provided little encouragement for the young prodigy who, by the age of five, understood Bach to be technically perfect. When you play Bachs music, she explained, you have to understand that hes a mathematician and all the notes you play add up to somethingthey make sense. They always add up to climaxes, like ocean waves getting bigger and bigger until after a while when so many waves have gathered you have a great storm.

For many years Simone aspired to be the first black classical pianist. In the early 1950s she attended the prestigious Juilliard School of Music on a one-year scholarship, but was later denied a scholarship to another academy she had hoped to attend. Philadelphias Curtis School of Music informed her that she was not talented enough to attend, but Simone has always viewed the rejection as a clear-cut case of racism. It is a snub that has haunted her through the years. In a 1985 statement, the Minnesota Daily quoted her recollection of the incident. I never thought about being black til I went up for a scholarship at the Curtis Institute, Simone revealed. I was too good not to get it, but they turned me down ... I couldnt get over it (then), I havent got over it now.

Disillusioned, Simone set aside her dreams of a classical career and began to shape her own unique sound in the bars and nightclubs of Philadelphia and Atlantic City. Because her devoutly religious mother considered pop music sinful, Eunice Waymon changed her name to Nina Simone in an effort to spare her any embarrassment. Combining a rebellious blend of music and emotion, and using classical piano as her main instrumentation, she built upon that foundation. Drawing from a wide range of musical styles, the songstress began to weave intricate patterns of vocal overlay into her pieces. Simone described her earliest performances of the late 1950s, recalling, I knew hundreds of popular songs and dozens of classical pieces, so what I did was combine them: I arrived prepared with classical pieces, hymns and gospel songs and improvised on those, occasionally slipping in a part from a popular tune.

During the 1960s, the socially conscious musician turned her attention to the civil rights movement, loudly denouncing the treatment of blacks in the U.S. Her untiring devotion to the Black Panthers won the admiration of fellow advocates, including Langston Hughes, James Baldwin, and Lorraine Hansberry. As her music became angrier, acquiring a sharper, more jagged edge, critics struggled to understand the artist as well as her art.

In 1974 John Rockwell maintained in the New York Times, Miss Simones unwillingness to compromise, artistically, financially or personally, can be seen as heroicas the firm refusal of an artist, a woman and a black, to bow to forces she feels are threatening her. Some felt personally affronted and expressed anger and resentment. Disappointed by a particular performance in 1971, Mike Jahn lamented in the New York Times, It is easy for Nina Simone to be a magnificent artist. She has been many times. It is just as easy for her to be proud and dignified, in keeping both with the level of her artistry, and with the richness of the culture of which she is so justly proud. Why she chose not to do so is unfathomable and sad. Such controversy has kept a spotlight on Simone throughout her career.

Though music critics have tended to underplay its significance, Simone highlights the importance of politics in her musical career. She attributes her activism particularly to her friendship with Lorraine Hansberry, the author of the 1958 play Raisin in the Sun. The infamous bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, which killed four school-age girls, inspired Simones hit Mississippi Goddamn, as well as a more entrenched commitment to the civil rights struggle. Nuff Said! was recorded two days after the murder of Martin Luther King, Jr., and includes a live set specifically inspired by his death. As far as Simone was concerned, the civil rights movement gave her music something that had been missing until that pointrelevance.

The turbulence of the 1960s visited Simones personal life as a series of setbacks and tragedies took their toll. She was divorcing her second husband, Andrew Stroud, a New York City police detective, when her father, from whom shed been estranged, passed away after a lingering illness. At about the same time, the I.R.S charged her with non-payment of taxes. Bitter and alienated, Simone began a nomadic life of self-imposed exile. Following her divorce from Stroud she moved to Barbados. In 1974, on the advice of friend Miriam Makeba, she settled in Liberia where she spent two years discovering an unprecedented sense of home and belonging as well as a profound spirituality. Years of subsequent wanderings took her to Switzerland, the U.K., and the south of France, which she now calls home.

A new generation of fans were exposed to Simones work when Chanel used one of her old songs in a 1987 ad campaign. My Baby Just Cares for Me, a reworked standard from her first album, became a mega-hit in Europe. Six years later she displayed her acting abilities in Point of No Return, a 1993 spy thriller to which Simone was also the main musical contributor.

A Single Woman

After nearly 20 years without a major recording, Simone signed with Elektra Records in 1993 and released A Single Woman, produced by Andre Fischer, Grammy-winning producer of Natalie Coles Unforgettable. Although some expressed reservations, most critics welcomed the recalcitrant diva back with open arms. The disc featured a 48-piece string section and offered three cuts inspired by Frank Sinatra, two re-recordings of songs dating from the 1960s, and one Simone original, the persuasive Marry Me. Musicians Kristine McKenna called the album a classy piece of work and noted, Its on Just Say I Love Him that Simone casts her spell most completely. The phrasing, inflection and timbre of her voice absolutely impeccable, she winds her way through its haunting melody like a purring cat.

The kudos and new-found popularity have not in any way mellowed Simones fiery passion or temperament. She maintains a baffling ambivalence toward her fans, caring little for others expectations, conforming to no ones standards but her own. Through a long and controversial career she has been intensely dedicated to the pursuit of artistic and political freedom. But to many critics she remains a puzzle. Commenting on the enigmatic musician in Pulse!, Norman Weinstein mused, Who knows what psychological rites of passage Simone passes through in order to work her magic? And who knows what trials she believes her audience must endure in order to be moved by the spirit infusing her music? One thing is certain. Shell put you under her spell with her vision of the hearts gospel truth.

Selected discography

Little Girl Blue, Bethlehem, 1958, resissued, 1993.

Nina Simone and Her Friends, Bethlehem, 1958.

The Amazing Nina Simone, Colpix, 1959.

Nina Simone at Town Hall, Colpix, 1959.

Live at the Village Gate, Colpix, 1960.

Nina Sings Ellington, Colpix, 1962.

NuffSaid!, RCA, 1968.

Baltimore, CTI, 1978.

Fodder in Her Wings, Carrere, 1982.

Let It Be Me, Verve, 1987.

Dont Let Me Be Misunderstood, Mercury, 1989.

Live, Zeta, 1990.

Nina Simone, Bella Musica, 1990.

The Best of Nina Simone, Sound, 1991.

The Blues, Novus, 1991.

Songs of the Poets: Dylan, Harrison and Simone, Edsel(U.K), 1992.

Nina Simone, Royal Collection, 1992.

Best of, Capitol, 1993.

Broadway-Blues-Ballads, reissued, Verve, 1993.

Something to Live For, Drive, 1993.

A Single Woman, Elektra, 1993.

High Priestess of Soul, Polydor.

I Put a Spell on You, Polydor.

Let It All Out, Polydor.

Pastel Blues, Polydor.

Wild Is the Wind, Polydor.

Sources

Books

Simone, Nina, with Stephen Cleary, I Put a Spell on You, Pantheon Books, 1991.

Periodicals

Billboard, May 29, 1993.

Blues & Soul, March 30, 1993.

Coda, October/November 1987.

Details, September 1993.

Emerge, August 1992.

Entertainment Weekly, April 30, 1993.

Melody Maker, July 9, 1988.

Minnesota Daily (University of MN; Minneapolis), April 15, 1993.

Musician, November 1993.

New York Times, October 22, 1960; January 16, 1965; May 11, 1971; October 12, 1971; July 1, 1974; December 12, 1978; February 24, 1979; June 6, 1983; March 11, 1985; August 8, 1993.

Philadelphia Inquirer, April 21, 1993.

Playboy, September 1993.

Pulse!, November 1993.

Request, September 1993.

Rolling Stone, November 11, 1993.

Village Voice, December 18, 1970; June 21, 1983.

Additional information for this profile was obtained from an RCA Records press file, 1968, and an Elektra Entertainment artist biography, 1993.

Diane Moroff

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Simone, Nina

Nina Simone

American jazz singer, songwriter, and pianist Nina Simone (1933–2003), known as the "High Priestess of Soul," used her talent to help shape the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. While her overt and sometimes extreme statements and opinions may have overshadowed her music, even critics could not ignore her soulful voice, which drapes over clas sically influenced piano lines in a way that defiesgenre.

Born Eunice Kathleen Waymon, on February 21, 1933, in Tyron, North Carolina, Simone was the sixth of eight children born to John Divine Waymon and his wife Mary Kate, who presided over their family in a house filled with music. "Everything that happened to me as a child involved music," Simone recalled in her autobiography, I Put A Spell On You. "Everybody played music. There was never any formal training; we learned to play the same way we learned to walk, it was that natural." While the other Waymon children had a love and talent for music, it became clear that young Eunice had a special affinity, a gift. By the age of six, Simone was the regular pianist at the family's church.

Aspired to Be Concert Pianist

At about the same time, to earn extra money for the family, Simone's mother had begun to clean the house of a white woman named Mrs. Miller who took great interest in the piano talent of Simone. Mrs. Miller suggested that her special talent needed to be fostered with formal training and upon learning the Waymon family could not afford it, offered to pay for Simone's piano lessons herself. Soon, Simone was the pupil of Muriel Massinovitch, an Englishwoman who'd moved to Tyron with her Russian painter husband and a strict devotee of Bach, a devotion which she passed on to her student. "He is technically perfect," Simone declares in her autobiography. "When you play Bach's music you have to understand that he's a mathematician and all the notes you play add up to something—they make sense.… When I understood Bach's music I never wanted to be anything other than a concert pianist; Bach made me dedicate my life to music, and it was Mrs. Massinovitch who introduced me to his world."

Simone then set off to become the first black concert pianist. During her last year of high school she had won a scholarship to the Julliard School of Music in New York for one year. Her plan was to use that year at Julliard to prepare her for the scholarship examination at the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, a monumental stepping stone if one wanted to become a concert pianist. The Curtis Institute rejected her application saying her level of piano playing was not good enough. "I just couldn't believe it had happened," Simone recalled, "and all I could think about was what I had given up over the years to get to where I was the day I heard Curtis didn't want me, which was nowhere. It was so hard to understand." Simone resolved to work harder and take the scholarship examination the next year, an idea she abandoned when the perception arose that the reason she did not get in the Curtis Institute was because she was black.

Became Club Performer

Following the disappointment with the Curtis Institute and with her family having migrated from North Carolina to Philadelphia, Simone decided to stay in the Philadelphia area and give piano lessons. When she learned one of her students, a particularly poor student at that, was going to be earning twice as much as she did by playing piano in a bar in Atlantic City for the summer, she decided to do the same. The only problem was Simone's staunchly religious mother—an ordained Methodist minister—would take a dim view of her daughter walking into a bar let alone working in one. To keep her mother from finding out she decided to come up with a stage name. She had loved the way an old boyfriend had often called her Nina, Spanish for "little girl," and she also liked the name Simone from the French actress, Simone Signoret. So there it was: Nina Simone.

The Midtown Bar and Grill was a seedy, Irish bar two blocks from Atlantic City's boardwalk, and in the summer of 1954 served as Simone's introduction to the performing life. For six hours a night—with a fifteen minute break each hour, where she'd sip milk at the bar—Simone first began to blend the genres that influenced her into a fresh synthesis of music. "I knew hundreds of popular songs and dozens of classical pieces," she wrote in her autobiography, "so what I did was combine them: I arrived prepared with classical pieces, hymns and gospel songs and improvised on those, occasionally slipping in a part from a popular tune." On her first night, the owner told her that her playing was fine, but if she wanted to keep the job, she'd have to sing as well. Soon, the drunken regulars had filtered out of the Midtown, replaced by packed crowds of young people enthused by the new style of music they were hearing.

Simone then moved from the Midtown to more upscale supper clubs in Philadelphia where she continued to have success and build an audience. In 1957 Simone hired an agent, Jerry Fields, who put her in contact with the head of New York's Bethlehem Records to do an album. After recording the album, released the next year called Little Girl Blue, Simone unknowingly signed a contract that gave away all her rights—a mistake she estimated that cost her over a million dollars. The first single from the album, a version of George and Ira Gershwin's "I Loves You, Porgy," attracted much attention and set the stage for her first real concert at New York's Town Hall. By this time she was signed to another label, Colpix, who released The Amazing Nina Simone and would also record and release the concert at Town Hall.

Soon Simone was the darling of the Greenwich Village music scene and began to tour America and abroad. While some of her performances were often in jazz clubs, Simone has long resisted the notion that she was a "jazz singer," regarding the term as a racial insult. "To most white people, jazz means black and jazz means dirt and that's not what I play," she declared to Brantley Bardin in a 1997 Details interview. "I play black classical music. That's why I don't like the term 'jazz,' and Duke Ellington didn't like it either—it's a term that's simply used to identify black people." In the early sixties, Simone's feelings of racial oppression merged with the influential friendship of civil rights activist and playwright Lorraine Hansberry. Finding a political voice was not hard for the outspoken Simone, and her songs soon began to merge political thought from the civil rights movement with the blend of classical, blues, and gospel, causing some to label her a protest singer, another term she dismissed.

Activism in the Civil Rights Movement

Inspired by the bombing of a Baptist church in Alabama, which killed four children, and the assassination of civil rights leader Medgar Evers in Mississippi, Simone wrote "Mississippi Goddam," which became an anthem of sorts for the civil rights movement and won her the admiration of such artists and leaders as Stokely Carmichael, Miriam Makeba, Langston Hughes, and James Baldwin.

For the rest of the decade Simone was regarded as the true singer of the civil rights movement and contributed songs like "Sunday in Savannah," "Backlash Blues," and a song declared by the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) to be the black national anthem, "To Be Young, Gifted, and Black." And while touring, recording, and working for civil rights won Simone praise and notoriety, her home life slowly unraveled.

Married in 1960 to former police detective Andy Stroud, who became her manager, the couple had a daughter, Lisa Celeste, in 1961 and Simone barely saw her grow up. "After Lisa was born I had sworn to keep a check on the pace of my life," Simone wrote in her autobiography, "but in the movement I lived at twice the speed I ever had and music and politics took up my whole life. I didn't have personal ambitions anymore—I wanted what millions of other Americans wanted, and enjoying any private landmarks was impossible because the outside world always managed to butt in." Simone and her daughter would be periodically estranged from one another for the next thirty years.

Time Spent Abroad

Simone and Stroud divorced in 1970 and Simone began what would be a fifteen-year exile from the United States. Disillusioned by the civil rights movement following the deaths of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Lorraine Hansberry, and Langston Hughes; disturbed by the lack of respect given to her by noisy, talkative audiences; hounded by the Internal Revenue Service who accused her of tax evasion; and fed up with the "pirates" of the record companies who she claimed have never compensated her properly for her records, Simone left. She first went to Barbados, then in 1974, Liberia in Africa.

For some of the time in Liberia, Simone had her daughter with her and when the need for better schooling arose, the two moved to Switzerland in 1976. At this point Simone's career as a singer was virtually nonexistent, and, in an attempt to revive it, she went to London where a con man convinced her he would sponsor her and get her performances. Instead, he robbed and beat her, then abandoned her in London. When the authorities did nothing, Simone attempted suicide by ingesting 35 sleeping pills. She woke up the next day in a London hospital glad to be alive, and hopeful for the future.

Simone spent the next two years playing small dates and then moved to Paris where in 1978 she recorded the album, Baltimore, for a small, independent label. Although the record was well-received, Simone would have another recording drought that would last seven years.

Returned to the United States

In 1985 Simone returned from her self-imposed exile to the United States and played a series of concerts, recorded the album Nina's Back, and even settled into a home in Los Angeles. The response from her fans was gracious and Simone appeared to have mellowed. "I'm ready to accept what the public has to give me," she confessed to Don Heckman of the Los Angeles Times. "And they're giving me a lot. The response I've been getting at all of my programs lately has been fantastic. I wasn't ready for that before, but now I want recognition in this country." Simone also made it clear that she wanted a hit record, telling Alexis DeVeaux of Essence that being a revolutionary is fine, but it does not pay the bills. "Before now, I was always led by whatever was going on politically at the time," she said. "At this point in time, my music is chosen because I want to make a hit record. That's entirely different from the way I chose it before.… And it doesn't have anything to do with what's going on in this country. It has to do with what's best for Nina Simone."

Simone would have to wait another two years for a hit and it was an unlikely one at that. For a Chanel perfume commercial in England, the advertising agency chose "My Baby Just Cares For Me," the last song she recorded for the Bethlehem album in 1958. The song was re-released in Europe in 1987 and became a hit. The hectic pace of America, however, proved too much for Simone and she moved to the Netherlands for a few years before settling in Bouc-Bel-Air in the South of France in 1991. That same year she published her autobiography, I Put A Spell On You, which received positive reviews. Two years later, Simone signed to the Elektra label and recorded her first recording for a major label in nearly twenty years, A Single Woman. Simone was also featured on the soundtrack of Point of No Return in 1993 as her music served to calm the lead character played by Bridget Fonda. She also made a brief appearance in the film. Her music also appeared on the soundtrack for Ghosts of Mississippi in 1996.

Simone made some unwanted headlines in 1995, none of which had to do with music or politics. While gardening in her backyard, she was disturbed by the loudness of two teenage boys swimming next door. When they persisted to be loud after she asked them twice to keep it down, Simone responded by shooting a buckshot rifle over the hedge towards the two boys. One of them was slightly injured and Simone was ordered to pay a fine of $4,600 plus damages to the injured boy's family. She was also put on probation for 18 months and forced to undergo psychological counseling where it was discovered that Simone was "incapable of evaluating the consequences of her act." Later that same year Simone was fined $5,000 for causing and leaving the scene of a car accident that occurred in 1993.

From there, the path was brighter for Simone with Verve, Rhino, and RCA all releasing anthology collections of her music in 1996 and 1997. And while she remained outspoken—she openly disliked America—Simone insisted her anger had subsided. "My anger was fire," she told Alison Powell of Interview in 1997, "and I was pushing that all that time, but I'm not angry now. I'm philosophical, and I am happy where I am because I can't change the world. I'm getting older and I have no business being out there preaching like I did."

Simone spent the last eight years of her life at her home in Carry-le-Rouet in France. On April 21, 2003, she died of natural causes. Three months after she died, BMG Heritage released a two-disc anthology of her work, running the gamut from her very first recording to her very last.

Books

Gregory, Hugh, Soul Music A-Z, Blandford, 1991.

Simone, Nina with Stephen Cleary, I Put A Spell On You, Pantheon, 1991.

Periodicals

Africa News Service, April 26, 2003.

Black Enterprise, September 1992.

Details, January 1997.

Downbeat, July 2003.

Ebony, February 1992.

Entertainment Weekly, November 29, 1996.

Essence, October 1985.

Europe Intelligence Wire, April 25, 2003.

Globe and Mail, April 26, 2003.

Interview, January 1997.

Jet, September 4, 1980; April 22, 1985; March 24, 1996; December 10, 2001.

Knight Ridder/Tribue News Service, July 15, 2003.

Los Angeles Times, July 30 1985; January 31, 1987; September 24, 1993.

Musician, November 1993.

New York Times, October 22, 1960; May 8, 1993; August 8, 1993.

New York Times Book Review, April 19, 1992.

Reuter's News Service, July 25, 1995; August 24, 1995.

Rolling Stone, August 10, 1978; November 11, 1993.

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