Women Who Rock: Nina Simone

March is National Women’s History Month, and we’re celebrating by sharing a lady we admire each weekday.

NINA SIMONE (1933-2003)

Singer, pianist, composer, and arranger Nina Simone was destined for musical greatness — she started playing the piano at age 4. Born Eurnice Waymon, Simone was the sixth of seven children in a poor North Carolina family. A music teacher set up a fund for her, and she went to study at the Julliard School of Music.
In the 1950s, Simone began working as an accompanist to support her family. She then took a job at an Irish bar, where she was told she had to sing, in addition to playing the piano, and that’s how the woman known as the “High Priestess of Soul” got into show business.

Simone wasn’t just a pretty voice; she often wrote and performed songs about civil rights issues, including “Mississsippi Goddam” and “Four Women.” Despite her talent and civil rights stance, Nina Simone was still oppressed by people of all races. Poet Langston Hughes wrote a verse honoring her, but even this support didn’t help her to shake the feeling that record companies and racists ruled her life and manipulated her career. She left America in the 1970s, living in a number of countries including Liberia, Holland and France, until her death.

Further reading and listening:

  • Feeling Good: The Very Best of Nina Simone
  • I Put A Spell on You: The Autobiography of Nina Simone by Nina Simone
  • [Photo: AP]