Nina Simone

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About Nina Simone

Nina Simone was one of the most distinctive, elusive, and brilliant musicians in jazz history, but she came to the genre reluctantly. Born in Tryon, North Carolina as Eunice Waymon in 1933, she had her heart set on being a classical pianist. In 1954, economic circumstances persuaded her to take a gig at an Atlantic City club, and she changed her name so her mother wouldn't discover she was playing "the devil's music." Simone forged a singular hybrid she would mine over the rest of her career, zeroing in on the essence of an ever-expanding repertoire of jazz, folk, blues, soul, pop, rock, classical, and gospel music. She toggled nonchalantly but authoritatively between genres, personalizing lyrics, melodies, and allusions in a kind of proto-remix style that revealed an unbounded musicality. A series of albums for Colpix, Philips, and RCA established her as a major star with an uncompromising vision. In the '60s, she recorded a series of politically charged songs—including "Mississippi Goddam," a fiery response to the murder of civil rights activist Medgar Evers—that elevated her appeal beyond the jazz market. In the '70s, she spent an increasing amount of time performing internationally—upbraiding audiences that weren't suitably engaged—while cutting fewer recordings. Simone was diagnosed with a bipolar disorder that explained increasingly erratic behavior, but the "High Priestess of Soul" continued to perform until her death in France in 2003.

Tryon, NC, United States
February 21, 1933
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