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Nina Simone

Nina Simone was one of the most gifted vocalists of her generation, and also one of the most eclectic. Simone was a singer, pianist, andsongwriter who bent genres to her will rather than allowing herself to be confined by their boundaries; her work swung back and forthbetween jazz, blues, soul, classical, R&B, pop, gospel, and world music, with passion, emotional honesty, and a strong grasp of technique asthe constants of her musical career. Nina Simone was born Eunice Kathleen Waymon in Tryon, North Carolina on February 21, 1933. Her mother, Mary Kate Waymon, was aMethodist minister, and h ...read more

Nina Simone was one of the most gifted vocalists of her generation, and also one of the most eclectic. Simone was a singer, pianist, andsongwriter who bent genres to her will rather than allowing herself to be confined by their boundaries; her work swung back and forthbetween jazz, blues, soul, classical, R&B, pop, gospel, and world music, with passion, emotional honesty, and a strong grasp of technique asthe constants of her musical career. Nina Simone was born Eunice Kathleen Waymon in Tryon, North Carolina on February 21, 1933. Her mother, Mary Kate Waymon, was aMethodist minister, and her father, John Divine Waymon, was a handyman who moonlighted as a preacher. Eunice displayed a precociousmusical talent at the age of three when she started picking out tunes on the family's piano, and a few years later she was playing piano ather mother's Sunday church services. Mary Kate worked part time as a housemaid, and when her employers heard Eunice play, theyarranged for her to study with pianist Muriel Mazzanovich, who tutored Eunice in the classics, focusing on Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Chopin,and Schubert. After graduating at the top of her high school class, Eunice received a grant to study at the Juilliard School of Music in NewYork City, and applied for enrollment at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. However, Eunice was denied admission at the CurtisInstitute under mysterious circumstances, despite what was said to be a stellar audition performance; Eunice would insist that her race wasthe key reason she was rejected. Determined to support herself as a musician, in 1954 Eunice applied for a job playing piano at the Midtown Bar & Grill in Atlantic City, NewJersey. Eunice was told she would have to sing as well as play jazz standards and hits of the day. While she had no experience as a vocalist,Eunice faked it well enough to get the job, and she adopted a stage name, Nina Simone -- Nina from a pet name her boyfriend used, andSimone from the French film star Simone Signoret. The newly christened Nina Simone was a quick study as a singer, and her unique mixtureof jazz, blues, and the classics soon earned her a loyal audience. Within a few years, Simone was a headliner at nightclubs all along the EastCoast, and in 1957 she came to the attention of Syd Nathan, the mercurial owner of the influential blues and country label King Records.Nathan offered Simone a contract with his jazz subsidiary, Bethlehem Records, and the two were soon butting heads as the strong-willedSimone insisted on choosing her own material. Simone won out, and in 1958, she enjoyed a major hit with her interpretation of "I Loves YouPorgy" from Porgy and Bess. The single rose to the Top 20 of the pop charts, but like many of Nathan's signings, Simone did not see eye toeye with him about business details (particularly after she discovered she'd signed away her right to royalties upon receiving her advance),and by 1959 she had signed a new deal with Colpix Records. Simone's reputation as a powerful live performer had only grown by this time, and her second album for Colpix was the first of many liverecordings she would release, Nina Simone at Town Hall. Simone's live performances gave her more room to show off her classical pianoinfluences, and her albums for Colpix reflected an intelligent taste in standards, pop songs, and supper club blues, and while she didn't enjoyanother American hit on the level of "I Loves You Porgy," her recordings of "Trouble in Mind" and "Nobody Knows You When You're Down andOut" both entered the pop charts as singles. In 1964, Simone left Colpix to sign a new deal with Philips, and the move coincided with a shift in the themes of her music. While alwaysconscious of the ongoing struggle for civil rights, Simone often avoided explicit political messages in her material; as she later wrote, "Howcan you take the memory of a man like Medgar Evers and reduce all that he was to three and a half minutes and a simple tune?" But as thefight for racial equality became a more pressing issue in America, Simone began addressing issues of social justice in her music, penningsongs such as "Mississippi Goddam," "Four Women," and "Young, Gifted and Black," the latter inspired by the work of her friend and mentorLorraine Hansberry. Simone also enjoyed a British hit single in 1964 with "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood," and while the record didn't fare aswell in the United States, a year later the Animals would take the song to the pop charts on both sides of the Atlantic. Simone would next hitthe British charts with her cover of Screamin' Jay Hawkins' "I Put a Spell on You," which also rose to the Top 30 in the States. In 1967, after recording seven albums for Philips, Simone struck a new deal with RCA Records, and while her first album for her new label,Nina Simone Sings the Blues, was a straightforward collection of blues standards, her subsequent work for RCA found Simone focusing oncontemporary pop, rock, and soul material, much of which dealt with topical themes and progressive philosophies (1969's To Love Somebodyfeatured no fewer than three Bob Dylan tunes). Simone's 1968 cover of "Ain't Got No/I Got Life" (from the musical Hair) was a major charthit in the U.K., and Simone would focus her energies on her European career when she left the United States in 1970, initially settling inBarbados and divorcing her husband and manager. Simone's exile was prompted by her increasing disillusionment with American politics, aswell as her refusal to pay income taxes as a protest against the U.S. involvement in Vietnam, though recording sessions and concert dateswould occasionally bring her back to the United States. In 1974, Simone released her last album for RCA, It Is Finished, and spent the nextseveral years traveling the world and playing occasional concerts; she would not return to the recording studio until 1978, when she recordedthe album Baltimore at a studio in Belgium for Creed Taylor's CTI label. (That same year, Simone was arrested and charged for her non-payment of taxes from 1971 to 1973.) It would be another four years until Simone would record again, cutting Fodder on My Wings for aSwiss label in 1982. After several more years of travel, Simone released a live album through the American VPI label, 1985's Live & Kickin, and another concertset, Let It Be Me, was issued by Verve in 1987, a year that saw Simone enjoying a major career resurgence in Europe; her 1959 recording of"My Baby Just Cares for Me" was used in a British television commercial for Chanel No. 5 perfume, and the song subsequently became a hit,rising to the Top Ten of the U.K. pop charts. In 1989, Simone was invited by Pete Townshend to sing the song "Fast Food" on his conceptalbum The Iron Man, which also featured John Lee Hooker. Simone's autobiography I Put a Spell on You was published in 1990, and after awell-received United States concert tour, she was signed by Elektra Records, which released the album A Single Woman in 1993.In 1995, Simone found herself in the news after she fired a gun at one of her neighbors during an argument; she was diagnosed with bipolardisorder, which was said to be the cause of several episodes of erratic behavior in her later years. Simone continued to perform live inEurope and the United States up until the summer of 2002, when it was discovered she had breast cancer. Simone's battle with the diseasecame to a close on April 21, 2003 in Carry-le-Rouet, France. Only a few days earlier, Simone had received an honorary degree from theCurtis Institute in Philadelphia, the same school that had rejected her in 1953. « hide

Similar Bands: Roberta Flack, Blossom Dearie, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Aretha Franklin

LPs
A Single Woman
1993

4
1 Votes
Fodder on My Wings
1982

3
1 Votes
Baltimore
1978

4.2
7 Votes
Emergency Ward
1972

4
1 Votes
Here Comes the Sun
1971

3.6
6 Votes
Black Gold
1970

3.5
7 Votes
Nina Simone and Piano
1969

4
9 Votes
To Love Somebody
1969

3.6
8 Votes
'Nuff Said
1968

3.3
4 Votes
Silk & Soul
1967

3.9
7 Votes
Nina Simone Sings the Blues
1967

4.4
57 Votes
Let it All Out
1966

3.8
7 Votes
Wild is the Wind
1966

4.1
31 Votes
High Priestess of Soul
1966

4.3
31 Votes
Nina Simone with Strings
1966

4
1 Votes
Pastel Blues
1965

4.3
90 Votes
I Put a Spell on You
1965

4.1
69 Votes
Broadway-Blues-Ballads
1964

3
3 Votes
Nina Simone Sings Ellington
1962

4
2 Votes
Forbidden Fruit
1961

4
12 Votes
Nina Simone and Her Friends
1959

The Amazing Nina Simone
1959

4.2
8 Votes
Little Girl Blue
1958

4
29 Votes
Live Albums
Live at Montreux - 1976
2006

5
1 Votes
Live at Ronnie Scott's
1987

2.5
1 Votes
It Is Finished
1974

4.3
2 Votes
Nina Simone in Concert
1964

4.5
3 Votes
Folksy Nina
1964

4.3
4 Votes
Nina Simone at Carnegie Hall
1963

4.5
7 Votes
Nina Simone at the Village Gate
1962

4.3
4 Votes
Nina Simone at Newport
1960

4.3
6 Votes
Nina Simone at Town Hall
1959

4.5
9 Votes
Compilations
Nina Simone: Remixed & Reimagined
2006

Anthology
2003

4
10 Votes

Contributors: arcane, rockandmetaljunkie, TwigTW, Iai, Egglord, manosg, Jom, TwigTW,

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