Tribute Nina Simone T-shirt
Tribute Nina Simone T-shirt
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Eunice Kathleen Waymon (February 21, 1933–April 21, 2003), better known by her stage name Nina Simone (/ˈniːnə sɨˈmoʊn/), was an American singer, songwriter, pianist, arranger, and civil rights activist. Although she disliked being categorized, Simone is most associated with jazz music. Simone originally aspired to become a classical pianist, but her work covers an eclectic variety of musical styles that include classical, jazz, blues, soul, folk, R&B, gospel, and pop. Her vocal style is characterized by intense passion, a loose vibrato, and a slightly androgynous timbre, in part due to her unusually low vocal range which veered between the alto and tenor ranges (occasionally even reaching baritone lows). Also known as The High Priestess of Soul, she paid great attention to the musical expression of emotions. Within one album or concert she could fluctuate between exuberant happiness and tragic melancholy. These fluctuations also characterized her own personality and personal life, amplified by bipolar disorder with which she was diagnosed in the mid-1960s, but kept secret until after her death in 2003. According to Nadine Cohodas, Simone's biographer, Ms. Simone was first diagnosed with multiple personality disorder and later with schizophrenia.
Simone recorded over 40 live and studio albums, the greatest body of her work released between 1958 (when she made her debut with Little Girl Blue) and 1974. Her most well known songs include "My Baby Just Cares for Me", "I Put a Spell on You", "Four Women", "I Loves You Porgy", "Feeling Good", "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood", "Sinnerman", "To Be Young, Gifted and Black", "Mississippi Goddam", "Ain't Got No, I Got Life" and "I Want a Little Sugar in My Bowl".
Her music and message made a strong and lasting impact on culture, illustrated by the numerous contemporary artists who cite her as an important influence (see Legacy and influence). Several hip hop musicians and other modern artists sample and remix Simone's rhythms and beats on their tracks. In particular, Talib Kweli and Mos Def routinely pay tribute to her outstanding and soulful musical style. Many of her songs are featured on motion picture soundtracks, as well as in video games, commercials, and TV series.
Civil rights era (1964–1974)
During 1964, she changed record distributors, 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 about her African-American origins (such as "Brown Baby" and "Zungo" on Nina at the Village Gate during 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 that killed four black children. The song was released as a single, being boycotted in certain southern states. With "Old Jim Crow" on the same album she reacts to the Jim Crow Laws.
From then onwards, a 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 rights meetings, such as at the Selma to Montgomery marches. Simone advocated violent revolution during the civil rights period as opposed to Martin Luther King's non-violent approach, and hoped that African Americans could, by armed combat, form a separate state (Simone was not, however, a racist, and wrote in her autobiography that her family and indeed herself regarded all races as equal). 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 "Four Women", a song about four different stereotypes of African-American women.
Simone moved from Philips to RCA Victor during 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 Hansberry's unfinished play "To Be Young, Gifted and Black" into a civil rights song. She performed it live on the album Black Gold (1970). A studio recording was released as a single, and the song has been covered by Aretha Franklin (on 1972s Young, Gifted and Black) and Donny Hathaway.