Name: Eunice Kathleen Waymon
Born February 21, 1933- April 21, 2003 (aged 70)
Genres: Jazz, blues, R&B, folk, gospel
Occupations: Singer, songwriter, pianist, arranger, activist from 1954–2003
Simone was born Eunice Kathleen Waymon in Tryon, North Carolina. The sixth of eight children in a poor family, she began playing piano at age three…
At the age of seventeen, Simone moved to New York to take classes at the Juilliard School of Music in New York. She then moved with her family to Philadelphia, where she auditioned for the city’s prestigious Curtis Institute, a conservatory of classical music; she was denied entrance into the school because of her race… thus beginning her fight to speak out against racism.
Billie Holiday and Kitty White were among many of Simone’s musical influences. Though it would be challenging to find a comparison to her music that does her talent justice.
Simone began to develop a small, but loyal fan base because of how well she blended classical, jazz, and popular music.
Simone continued to build her performance experience when she recorded a version of George Gershwins “I Loves You Porgy” in 1958. The song became her only top forty hit, and was featured on her debut album Little Girl Blue on Bethlehem Records, which sold well.
On her debut album for Philips, Nina Simone in Concert (live recording, 1964) Simone for the first time openly addressed the racial inequality that was prevalent in the United States with the song “Mississippi Goddam”, her response to the murder of Medgar Evers and the bombing of a church in Birmingham, Alabama that killed four black children.
From then on she was seen in the eyes of the media and public as an icon and a true activist.
Beginning in 1964, Simone began her association with Philips Records. Here partnership with Philips lasted three years and yielded seven albums. One of her most popular songs during this period was Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood, which was the opening tracks to her 1964 album Broadway-Blues-Ballads. It became one of her signature songs and was popular enough to be covered by the rock band The Animals in 1965.
In 1966, Simone signed with RCA Records, whom she stayed with until 1974. While at RCA, Simone recorded nine albums including High Priestess of Soul and Here Comes The Sun as well as several popular songs that would become permanent songs of her catalog. In 1969, Simone renounced America and decided to live as an expatriate. During this period she lived in Barbados, Liberia, Switzerland and the United Kingdom before finally settling in Cary-le-Rouet, France.
In 1970, Simone divorced Stroud and tried to manage her own career. In 1978, she was arrested for withholding taxes from 1971 to 1973 as a protest to the war in Vietnam. Simone recorded her last album for RCA, entitled Is It Finished, in 1974. She did not record another album until 1978 when she released Baltimore. While this album was hailed by critics, Simone felt very negatively towards the album stating she had little to no artistic input. The album held onto her varied tastes with songs ranging from spiritual songs to her sardonic cover of Hall & Oates pop hit Rich Girl.
In 1982, Simone recorded the album Fodder On My Wings. The album included songs which relate her negative experiences in the music industry, such as I Was Just A Stupid Dog To Them. Throughout the 1980s, Simone performed at Ronnie Scott’s club in London on a regular basis, and recorded the album Live At Ronnie Scott’s there in 1984. In 1989, Simone contributed to pop songwriter Pete Townshend’s musical The Iron Man. In 1990, Simone released her autobiography I Put A Spell On You.
In 1993, Simone released her last studio album, A Single Woman. The album was met once again with critical acclaim. Realizing the demand for her music, Simone began touring again, returning to America for the first time in almost ten years.
In 1995, Simone shot and wounded the son of her neighbor with a pistol after his laughing interrupted her attention. Simone also fired a gun at a record company executive for apparently withholding royalties from her. It was later discovered that Simone suffered from bipolar disorder, and began taking medication to treat it in the mid-1960s.
On April 21, 2003, Simone passed away after a battle with breast cancer, two months shy of her seventieth birthday. Simone is survived by her daughter, who performs under the name Simone as a singer and dancer.