Nina Simone

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Nina Simone (born Eunice Kathleen Waymon; February 21, 1933 – April 21, 2003) was an American singer, songwriter, pianist, arranger, and civil rights activist. She worked in a broad range of musical styles including classical, jazz, blues,folk, R&B, gospel, and pop.

Performing Sinnerman (1965)

The sixth child of a preacher’s family in North Carolina, Simone aspired to be a concert pianist. Her musical path changed direction after she was denied a scholarship to the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, despite a well-received audition. “Simone said she later found out from an insider at Curtis that she was denied entry because she was black.” To fund her continuing musical education and become a classical pianist, she began playing in a small club in Philadelphia where she was also required to sing. She was approached by Bethlehem Records, and her rendition of “I Loves You, Porgy” was a hit in the United States in 1958. Over the length of her career Simone recorded more than 40 albums, mostly between 1958, when she made her debut with Little Girl Blue, and 1974.

Her musical style arose from a fusion of gospel and pop songs with classical music, in particular with influences from her first inspiration, Johann Sebastian Bach, and accompanied with her expressive jazz-like singing in her characteristic contralto voice. She injected her classical background into her music as much as possible to give it more depth and quality, as she felt that pop music was inferior to classical. Her intuitive grasp on the audience–performer relationship was gained from a unique background of playing piano accompaniment for church revivals and sermons regularly from the early age of six years old.

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  1. I remember standing by the pool as a teenager, setting off the fireworks display for the New Year party… It was midnight and my sister and I had made a cocktail so strong most of the guests were three sheets to the wind. Suddenly Nina walks up and steps into the pool fully clothed. There was a loud cheer as other guests followed her into the pool. Best New Years I ever had in Nigeria.