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 widely associated with jazz music. Simone aspired to become a classical pianist while working in a broad range of styles including classical, jazz, blues, folk, R&B, gospel, and pop.
Born the sixth child of a preacher's family in North Carolina, Simone aspired to be a concert pianist as a child. Her musical path changed direction after she was denied a scholarship to the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, despite a well-received audition. Simone was later told by someone working at Curtis that she was rejected because she was black.She then began playing in a small club in Philadelphia to fund her continuing musical education to become a classical pianist and was required to sing as well. She was approached for a recording by Bethlehem Records, and her rendition of "I Loves You Porgy" became a smash hit in the United States in 1958. Over the length of her career, Simone recorded more than 40 albums, mostly between 1958 — when she made her debut with Little Girl Blue — and 1974.
Her musical style arose from a fusion of gospel and pop songs with classical music, in particular with influences from her first inspiration, Johann Sebastian Bach, and accompanied with her expressive jazz-like singing in her characteristic low tenor. She injected as much of her classical background into her music as possible to give it more depth and quality, as she felt that pop music was inferior to classical.Her intuitive grasp on the audience-performer relationship was gained from a unique background of playing piano accompaniment for church revivals and sermons regularly from the early age of six years.
After 20 years of performing, she became involved in the civil rights movement and the direction of her life shifted once again Simone's music was highly influential in the fight for equal rights in the US.
Throughout her career, Simone assembled a collection of songs that would become standards in her repertoire. These songs were self-written tunes, tributes to works by others with a new arrangement by Simone, or songs written especially for Simone. Her first hit song in America was her rendition of George Gershwin's "I Loves You, Porgy" (1958). It peaked at number 18 in the pop singles chart and number 2 on the black singles chart. During that same period Simone recorded "My Baby Just Cares for Me", which would become her biggest success years later, in 1987, when it was featured in a Chanel No. 5 perfume commercial. A music video was created by Aardman Studios for the commercial.
Well known songs from her Philips albums include "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" on Broadway-Blues-Ballads (1964), "I Put a Spell on You", "Ne Me Quitte Pas" (a rendition of a Jacques Brel song) and "Feeling Good" on I Put A Spell On You (1965), "Lilac Wine" and "Wild Is the Wind" on Wild is the Wind (1966). Especially the songs "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood", "Feeling Good", and "Sinnerman" (Pastel Blues, 1965) have great popularity today in terms of cover versions (most notably a version of the former song by The Animals), sample usage, and its use on soundtracks for various movies, TV-series, and video games. "Sinnerman", in particular, has been featured in the TV series Scrubs and Person of Interest, on movies such as The Thomas Crown Affair, Miami Vice, and Inland Empire, and sampled by artists such as Talib Kweli and Timbaland. The song "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" was sampled by Devo Springsteen on "Misunderstood" from Common's 2007 album Finding Forever, and by little-known producers Rodnae and Mousa for the song "Don't Get It" on Lil Wayne's 2008 album Tha Carter III. The song "See-Line Woman" was sampled by Kanye West for "Bad News" on his album 808s and Heartbreak.
Simone's years at RCA-Victor spawned a number of singles and album songs that were popular, particularly in Europe. In 1968, it was "Ain't Got No, I Got Life", a medley from the musical Hair from the album 'Nuff Said! (1968) that became a surprise hit for Simone, reaching number 4 on the UK pop charts and introducing her to a younger audience. In 2006, it returned to the UK Top 30 in a remixed version by Groovefinder. The following single, the Bee Gees' rendition of "To Love Somebody" also reached the UK top 10 in 1969. "House of the Rising Sun" was featured on Nina Simone Sings The Blues in 1967, but Simone had recorded the song in 1961 and it was featured on Nina At The Village Gate (1962), predating the versions by Dave Van Ronk and Bob Dylan.It was later covered by The Animals, for whom it became a signature hit.
Simone's bearing and stage presence earned her the title "High Priestess of Soul". She was a piano player, singer, and performer, "separately and simultaneously".. On stage, Simone moved from gospel to blues, jazz, and folk, to numbers with European classical styling, and Bach-style fugal counterpoint. She incorporated monologues and dialogues with the audience into the program, and often used silence as a musical element. Simone compared it to "mass hypnosis. I use it all the time". Throughout most of her life and recording career she was accompanied by percussionist Leopoldo Fleming and guitarist and musical director Al Schackman.
Simone had a reputation in the music industry for her volatility. In 1995, she shot and wounded her neighbor's son with a pneumatic pistol after his laughter disturbed her concentration. She also fired a gun at a record company executive whom she accused of stealing royalties. According to a biographer, Simone took medication for a condition from the mid-1960s on. All this was only known to a small group of intimates, and kept out of public view for many years, until the biography Break Down And Let It All Out written by Sylvia Hampton and David Nathan revealed this in 2004 after her death.
Musicians who have cited Simone as important for their own musical upbringing include Van Morrison, Christina Aguilera, Elkie Brooks, Talib Kweli, Mos Def, Kanye West, Lena Horne, John Legend, Elizabeth Fraser, Cat Stevens, Peter Gabriel, Cedric Bixler-Zavala, Mary J. Blige, Michael Gira, Angela McCluskey, Lauryn Hill, Patrice Babatunde, Alicia Keys, Ian MacKaye, Kerry Brothers, Jr. "Krucial", Amanda Palmer, and Jeff Buckley.John Lennon cited Simone's version of "I Put a Spell on You" as a source of inspiration for the Beatles song "Michelle". Musicians who have covered her work (or her specific renditions of songs) include Black Rock Coalition Orchestra, J.Viewz, Carola, Aretha Franklin, Janis Joplin, Marilyn Manson, Donny Hathaway, David Bowie, Elkie Brooks, Roberta Flack, Jeff Buckley, The Animals, Shivaree (band), Ambrosia Parsley, Muse, Cat Power, Katie Melua, Timbaland, Feist, Shara Worden, Common, Lil Wayne, and Michael Bublé. Simone's music has been featured in soundtracks of various motion pictures and video games, including but not limited to, The Big Lebowski (1998), Point of No Return (AKA The Assassin, 1993), Notting Hill (1999), Any Given Sunday (1999), The Thomas Crown Affair (1999), Six Feet Under (2001), The Dancer Upstairs (film) (2002), Before Sunset (2004), Cellular (2004), Inland Empire (2006), Sex and the City (2008), The World Unseen (2008), Revolutionary Road (2008), Watchmen (2009), The Saboteur (2009), Repo Men (2010). Frequently her music is used in remixes, commercials, and TV series.
|1958||Little Girl Blue||Studio||Bethlehem Records|
|1959||Nina Simone and Her Friends||Studio|
|The Amazing Nina Simone||Studio||Colpix Records|
|Nina Simone at Town Hall||Live and studio|
|1960||Nina Simone at Newport||Live||23 (pop)|
|1962||Nina at the Village Gate||Live|
|Nina Simone Sings Ellington||Live|
|Nina Simone at Carnegie Hall||Live|
|Nina Simone in Concert||Live||Philips Records||102 (pop)|
|1965||I Put a Spell on You||Studio||99 (pop)|
|Pastel Blues||Studio||8 (black)|
|1966||Nina Simone with Strings||Studio (strings added)||Colpix|
|Let It All Out||Live and studio||Philips||19 (black)|
|Wild Is the Wind||Studio||12 (black)|
|1967||High Priestess of Soul||Studio||29 (black)|
|Nina Simone Sings the Blues||Studio||RCA Records||29 (black)|
|Silk & Soul||Studio||24 (black)|
|1968||Nuff Said||Live and studio||44 (black)|
|1969||Nina Simone and Piano||Studio|
|To Love Somebody||Studio|
|A Very Rare Evening||Live||PM Records|
|1970||Black Gold||Live||RCA Records||29 (black)|
|1971||Here Comes the Sun||Studio||RCA Records||190 (pop)|
|Gifted & Black||Studio||Canyon Records|
|1972||Emergency Ward||Live and studio||RCA Records|
|1973||Live at Berkeley||Live||Stroud|
|Gospel According to Nina Simone||Live||Stroud|
|1974||It Is Finished||Live||RCA Records|
|Sings Billie Holiday||Live||Stroud|
|1978||Baltimore||Studio||CTI Records||12 (jazz)|
|1980||The Rising Sun Collection||Live||Enja|
|1982||Fodder on My Wings||Studio||Carrere|
|1985||Live & Kickin||Live|
|1987||Let It Be Me||Live||Verve|
|Live at Ronnie Scott's||Live||Hendring-Wadham|
|The Nina Simone Collection||Compilation||Deja Vu|
|1993||A Single Woman||Studio||Elektra Records||3 (top jazz)|
|1975||The Great Show Live in Paris||Live||RCA?|
|1997||Released||Compilation||RCA Victor Europe|
|Anthology||Compilation (from many labels)||RCA/BMG Heritage|
|2004||Nina Simone's Finest Hour||Compilation||Verve/Universal|
|2005||The Soul of Nina Simone||Compilation + DVD||RCA DualDisc|
|Nina Simone Live at Montreux 1976||DVD only||Eagle Eye Media|
|2006||The Very Best of Nina Simone||Compilation||Sony BMG|
|Remixed and Reimagined||Remix||Legacy/SBMG||5 (contemp.jazz)|
|Songs to Sing: the Best of Nina Simone||Compilation/Live Compilation||Deluxe|
|Forever Young, Gifted, & Black: Songs of Freedom and Spirit||Remix||RCA|
|2008||To Be Free: The Nina Simone Story||Compilation||Sony Legacy|
|2009||The Definitive Rarities Collection - 50 Classic Cuts||Compilation||Artwork Media|
|?||Nina Simone Live||DVD only: Studio 1961 & '62||Kultur/Creative Arts Television|