A faithful civil rights activist, singer, musician, pianist, and author was born on February 21, 1933, in Tryon, North Carolina. She was a musical icon that inspired so many in a time of struggle. She made the world respect and see her as a strong black woman, and they loved her for it. She died a legend and a forever the voice of the people who didn’t have a voice, Nina Simone. At an early age Nina, also known as Eunice Kathleen Waymon, had a gift and talent that was saw by her parents and well respected and acted upon in helping develop it.
She started playing the piano at the age of three and was later put in place as a music director in her parents church. She soon began studying classical music and developed a lifelong love and appreciation for Johann Sebastian Bach, Chopin, Brahms, Beethoven, and Schubert. She graduated valedictorian of her high school class and the community, that recognized her gift and talent, raised money for a scholarship for Nina to study at Julliard in New York City before applying to the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. The school denied her admission crushing her hopes and dreams of becoming an African American pianist but it built the voice of the Nina Simone. Nina believed that her admission to the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia was denied due to the color of her skin which played a big move in her career as the Civil Rights Movement crept along.
In the mid-1960s, Simone became known as the voice of the Civil Rights Movement. She wrote “Mississippi Goddam” in response to the 1963 assassination of Medgar Evers and the Birmingham church bombing that killed four young African-American girls. She also penned “Four Women,” chronicling the complex histories of a quartet of African-American female figures, and “Young, Gifted and Black,” borrowing the title of a play by Hansberry, which became a popular anthem. After the assassination of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968, Simone’s bassist, Greg Taylor, penned “Why (The King of Love Is Dead)”.
In Nina’s final years, reports indicated that Nina Simone was battling breast cancer. She died at the age of 70 on April 21, 2003, at her home in Carry-le-Rouet, France. When Nina died, she left a timeless treasure of musical magic spanning over four decades from her first hit, the 1959 Top 10 classic “I Loves You Porgy,” to “A Single Woman,” the title cut from her one and only 1993 Elektra album. Two documentaries on the musician’s life were released in 2015: The Amazing Nina Simone, directed by Jeff L. Lieberman and backed by Re-Emerging Films, and What Happened, Miss Simone?, from Netflix. What Happened, Miss Simone? later received an Oscar nomination for best documentary. Simone left a lasting impression on the world of music, art and activism. She sang to share her belief, and her work still echoes with great emotion and strength.
Simone has inspired a number of performers, including Aretha Franklin and Lauryn Hill. Her deep, distinctive voice continues to be a popular choice for television and film soundtracks.