The Amazing Nina Simone
Legendary performer Nina Simone was born on this day in 1933
Born on February 21, 1933, in Tryon, North Carolina, Nina Simone studied classical piano at the Juilliard School in New York City but left early when she ran out of money. Performing in nightclubs, she turned her interest to jazz, blues, and folk music and released her first album in 1957, scoring a Top 20 hit with the track “I Loves You Porgy.” Simone released a bevy of albums from the late ’50s throughout the ’60s and early ’70s, including records like “The Amazing Nina Simone” (1959), “Nina Simone Sings Ellington!” (1962), “Wild Is the Wind” (1966) and “Silk and Soul” (1967). She also made cover songs of popular music, eventually putting her own spin on such songs as Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin'” and the Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun.” And she showed her sensual side with tracks like “Take Care of Business” on 1965’s I Put a Spell on You and “I Want a Little Sugar in My Bowl” on 1967’s Nina Simone Sings the Blues. In the ‘60s, Simone expanded her repertory in exemplary fashion while becoming identified as a leading voice of the Civil Rights Movement. She wrote “Mississippi Goddam” in response to the 1963 assassination of Medgar Evers and the Birmingham church bombing that killed four young African-American girls. She also penned “Four Women,” chronicling the complex histories of a quartet of African-American female figures, and “Young, Gifted and Black,” borrowing the title of a play by Hansberry, which became a popular anthem. After the assassination of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968, Simone’s bassist Greg Taylor penned “Why (The King of Love Is Dead),” which was performed by the singer and her band at the Westbury Music Festival. She later lived abroad and experienced major mental health and financial issues, though enjoying a big career resurgence in the 1980s. Simone died in France on April 21, 2003.
By Ken Warren, 2017/18
Look back at Nina Simone playing live in London, 1968
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