By: Autumn Johnson

Who is Nina Simone?

Nina Simone was born as Eunice Kathleen Waymon on February 21, 1933, in Tryon, North Carolina. She developed a love for music at a very young age, as she started playing the piano at 3 years old. Simone was very intelligent, graduating valedictorian of her class in high school and going off to The Juilliard School to study classical piano. Unfortunately, she was unable to stay at Julliard due to financial reasons, which resulted in moving to Philadelphia with her family. In hopes of going to an affordable music program, she applied but was denied from the Curtis Institute of Music because she was black. This event turned her away from classical music.

Genre Defying

Although she turned away from classical music, the training could still be seen throughout Nina Simone’s music. She blended jazz, blues, and folk together during the 50’s and 60’s, defying any specific genre rules. She became a civil rights activist and fought for women through her powerful songs. Her song, “Mississippi Goddam”, is a cry for help due to all of the injustices that occurred within the African American community after the assassination of Medgar Evers in 1962 and the Birmingham Church bombing. The song was very popular everywhere except the South, which speaks to the climate of society during that time. In another song, “Four Women”, she sings about four different women of color and their personal struggles. This was huge as the issues of women of color were not frequently discussed when talking about feminism. Nina Simone used her voice to acknowledge and inform people of all the pain and the experiences not only African Americans go through, but African American women go through as well.

Later Life and Influence

Nina Simone eventually became exhausted with American music and the country’s racial politics, because although she sang as an activist, a lot of problems had not gone away or been resolved even slightly. She traveled abroad to many countries like Liberia, Switzerland, England, and Barbados before she settled down in France, where she died at the age of 70 on April 21, 2003. Nina Simone inspired many artists such as Aretha Franklin, Joni Mitchell, Lauryn Hill, and many more. She was an outspoken artist that influenced other artists to do the same after her.

Works Cited

  • Allen, Jeremy. “Nina Simone – 10 of the Best.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 2 Mar. 2016, www.theguardian.com/music/musicblog/2016/mar/02/nina-simone-10-of-the-best.

 

  • “Nina Simone.” Biography.com, A&E Networks Television, 18 Feb. 2021, www.biography.com/musician/nina-simone.

 

  • “NINA SIMONE.” The Official Home of Nina Simone The High Priestess of Soul, www.ninasimone.com/biography/.

     

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