Nina Simone

Singer / Songwriter

Born: 21 February 1933
Died: 21 April 2003 (cancer)
Birthplace: Tryon, North Carolina
Best known as: Eclectic singer of "I Loves You Porgy" and "Mississippi Goddam"

Name at birth: Eunice Kathleen Waymon

Nina Simone was a classically trained pianist who became a famous nightclub singer, thanks to an early hit, 1958's "I Loves You Porgy." She famously interpreted and composed classical, jazz, pop, gospel, folk and blues songs of love and bitterness and had a worldwide following over a fifty-year career that earned her the nickname of "High Priestess of Soul." A poor black girl from the American south, she was enough of a musical prodigy that community patrons financially supported her musical education. She went to the Julliard School of Music in New York and earned a living as a pianist, accompanying singers and playing in nightclubs. She began singing in 1954, and audiences loved her deep voice, raw emotions and soulful interpretations of standards. Simone was a self-described diva of the temperamental genius variety, and she so detested racial injustice in the United States she lived abroad after 1974 (in Barbados, Africa, Switzerland and, finally, France). A surge of popularity during the 1990s created a new generation of fans. Her records made the jazz charts again and she was heard in TV commercials, movies and hip-hop samples. Some of her more well-known songs are: "My Baby Just Cares For Me," "I Put A Spell On You," "To Be Young, Gifted and Black," "See Line Woman," "Sinnerman" and "Mississippi Goddam."

Extra credit: The story of her stage name is that she chose Nina because it means "small," and Simone after French actress Simone Signoret... In 1989 she worked with Pete Townshend on his musical The Iron Horse... Simone held two honorary doctorate degrees (in music and humanities) and preferred to be called Dr. Nina Simone.

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