The legendary performer, Nina Simone sang a mix of jazz, blues and folk music in the 1950s and ’60s, later enjoying a career resurgence in the ’80s. A staunch Civil Rights activist, she was known for tunes like “Mississippi Goddam,” “Young, Gifted and Black” and “Four Women,” among many others.
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 night clubs, 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.” In the ‘60s, Simone expanded her repertory in exemplary fashion while becoming identified as a leading voice of the Civil Rights Movement. 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.
Background and Early Life
Born Eunice Kathleen Waymon on February 21, 1933, in Tryon, North Carolina, Nina Simone took to music at an early age, learning to play piano at the age of 3 and singing in her church’s choir. Simone’s musical training over the years emphasized classical repertory along the lines of Beethoven and Brahms, with Simone later expressing the desire to have been recognized as the first major African-American concert pianist. Her music teacher helped establish a special fund to pay for Simone’s education and, after finishing high school, the same fund was used to send the pianist to New York City’s famed Juilliard School of Music to train.
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