I Put a Spell on You: The Autobiography of Nina Simone by Nina SimoneThe inimitable, gorgeously talented Nina Simone (1933-2003)--the high priestess of soul--sets the story of her tumultuous, passionate life straight in I Put a Spell on You.
Born Eunice Kathleen Waymon in small-town North Carolina, Nina Simone changed the face of both music and race relations in America. She struck a chord with bluesy jazz ballads like Put a Little Sugar in My Bowl and powerful protest songs such as Mississippi Goddam and To Be Young, Gifted, and Black, the anthem of the American Civil Rights movement.
Here are the many lives and loves of Nina Simone, recounted in her unshakable voice.
Nina Simone and me: An artist and activist revisited
Chat with us in Facebook Messenger. Find out what's happening in the world as it unfolds. More Videos The making of a protest anthem Story highlights Nina Simone sacrificed her musical career for her activism She wrote songs that became anthems of the civil rights movement.
Nina Simone was a genre-defying musician whose recordings blended jazz, folk, classical piano and blues. She loved the classical piano composers: Bach, Chopin, Beethoven and Schubert. She was thwarted in this ambition, however, after being denied a scholarship to the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, another top music conservatory. I was refused a scholarship because I was black. After this disappointing end to her formal music training, she began performing in Atlantic City nightclubs, taking the stage name Nina Simone in honor of the French actress Simone Signoret. By the early s, Simone became active in the Civil Rights Movement, taking part in the Selma to Montgomery marches and recording several songs that soon became civil rights anthems.
A precocious child, Simone played piano and organ in girlhood. She became sensitive to racism when at age 12 she gave a piano recital in a library where her parents had to stand in back because they were black. Her vocal career began in in an Atlantic City , New Jersey , nightclub when the club owner threatened to fire her unless she sang too. Angered by American racism, she left the United States in and lived in Barbados , Africa, and Europe for the rest of her life. Like her private life, her career was turbulent, and she gained a reputation for throwing onstage tantrums, insulting inattentive audiences, and abruptly canceling concerts.
Who Was Nina Simone?
Performing in night clubs, she turned her interest to jazz, blues and folk music and released her first album in , scoring a Top 20 hit with the track "I Loves You Porgy. She later lived abroad and experienced major mental health and financial issues, though she enjoyed a career resurgence in the s. - Simone with James Baldwin in the early sixties. All four have names.
Though she chose to keep her personal life shrouded in secrecy, these facts grant VIP access into a life well-lived and the music that still lives on. The singer was born as Eunice Waymon on February 21, She hoped that adopting a different name would keep her mother from finding out about her performances. There's a reason that much of the singer's music had gospel-like sounds. Simone—the daughter of a Methodist minister and a handyman—was raised in the church and started playing the piano by ear at age 3. She got her start in her hometown of Tryon, North Carolina, where she played gospel hymns and classical music at Old St. After Simone died on April 21, , she was memorialized at the same sanctuary.
The sixth of eight children born to a poor family in Tryon, North Carolina , Simone initially aspired to be a concert pianist. In , just days before her death, the Institute awarded her an honorary degree. To make a living, Simone started playing piano at a nightclub in Atlantic City. She changed her name to "Nina Simone" to disguise herself from family members, having chosen to play "the devil's music"  or so-called "cocktail piano". She was told in the nightclub that she would have to sing to her own accompaniment, which effectively launched her career as a jazz vocalist.