She’s ill!! I mean like ILLMATIC!!! Anybody who is a fan of her knows and those who are not should know!! Unlike any other performer i ever heard and she is straight RAW! “Strange Fruit”, “Misunderstood”, “I’m Feeling Good” all bangers. Peep the Bio:

Youth (1933–1954)

Simone was born Eunice Kathleen Waymon in Tryon, North Carolina, one of eight children. She began playing piano at her local church and showed prodigious talent on this instrument. Her concert debut, a classical piano recital, was made at the age of ten. During her 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 refused to play until her parents were moved back. 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. Subsequently, a local fund was set up to assist in Eunice’s continued education. At 17, Simone moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where 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 directly related to her being black, as well as being a woman. It further fueled her hatred of the widespread and institutionalized racism present in the U.S. during the period.

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 took on 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. Simone played and sang a mixture of jazz,blues and classical music at the bar, and by doing so she created a small but loyal fan base.

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 hit 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 $3000, missing out on more than $1 million of royalties (mainly because of the successful re-release of “My Baby Just Cares for Me” in the 1980s).

Becoming “popular” (1959-1964)

After the success of Little Girl Blue, Simone signed a contract with the bigger label 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 signing with them. Simone, who at this point only performed pop 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.

Civil rights era (1964–1974)

Simone was made aware of the severity of racism in America by her friends Langston HughesJames Baldwin and Lorraine Hansberry (author of the play Raisin in the Sun). In 1964, she changed record labels, 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 to her African-American origins (such as “Brown Baby” and “Zungo” on Nina at the Village Gate in 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, killing four black children. The song was released as a single, being boycottedin certain southern states. With “Old Jim Crow” on the same album she reacts to the Jim Crow Laws.

From then onwards, the 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 rightsmeetings, such as at the Selma to Montgomery marches. 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 the song Four Women and sings it on Wild Is the Wind (1966). It is about four different stereotypes of African-American women.

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 (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.

Together with Weldon Irvine, Simone turned the late Lorraine Hansberrys unfinished play “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” into a civil rights song. She performed it live on Black Gold (1970). A studio recording was released as a single, and the song became the official “National Anthem of Black America” and has been covered by Aretha Franklin (on 1972s Young, Gifted and Black) and Donny Hathaway.

Later life (1974–2003)

Simone left the United States in September 1970. She flew to Barbados, expecting her husband and manager, Andrew Stroud, to contact her when she had to perform again. However, Stroud interpreted Simone’s sudden disappearance (and the fact that she 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 had no knowledge about how her business was run, 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. Simone stayed in Barbados for quite some time, and had a lengthy affair with the Prime Minister, Errol Barrow. A close friend, singerMiriam Makeba, convinced her to come to Liberia. After that she lived in Switzerland and the Netherlands, before settling in France in 1992.

She recorded her last album for RCA RecordsIt Is Finished, in 1974. It was not until 1978 that Simone was convinced 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. 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. In the 1980s Simone performed regularly at Ronnie Scott‘s jazz club in London, where the album Live at Ronnie Scott’s was recorded in 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. HerautobiographyI Put a Spell on You, was published in 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-RouetBouches-du-Rhône on April 21, 2003, aged 70. 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”. Simone’s ashes were scattered in several African countries. She left behind a daughter, Lisa Celeste, now an actress/singer who took on the stagename Simone who has appeared on Broadway in Aida.

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 didn’t do 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. In that same period Simone recorded “My Baby Just Cares for Me“, which would become her biggest hit years later in 1987, when it featured in a Chanel no. 5 perfume commercial. A music video was then created by Aardman Studios.

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” onWild is the Wind (1966). 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‘s version of the former song), sample usage and its use on various movie-, TV-series- and videogame soundtracks. “Sinnerman” in particular has been featured on movies like The Thomas Crown Affairand 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 ForeverWill.I.Am sampled “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” too for Lil Wayne‘s 2008 album “The Carter III“.

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. 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. 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. In a single concert she could be a singer, pianist, dancer, actress, activist, as well as both therapist and patient all simultaneously. 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. Simone compared it to “mass hypnosis. I use it all the time” Throughout most of her live and recording career she was accompanied by percussionist Leopoldo Flemming and guitarist and musical director Al Schackman.

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. She also fired a gun at a record company executive whom she accused of stealing royalties. It is now recognised that this ‘difficulty’ was the result of bipolar disorder. Simone reluctantly took medication for her condition from the mid-1960s on. 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 Outwritten by Sylvia Hampton and David Nathan revealed this secret in 2004.

Honors

On Human Kindness Day 1974 in Washington DC more than 10,000 people paid tribute to Simone. Simone received two honorary degrees in music and humanities from the University of Massachusetts and Malcolm X College. She preferred to be called “Dr. Nina Simone” after these honors were bestowed upon her. Only two days before her death, Simone was awarded an honorary diploma by theCurtis Institute, the school that had turned her down at the start of her career. (Taken from Wikipedia).

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