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If Nina Simone were still living she would have been 80 years young today. Born Eunice Kathleen Waymon on February 21, 1933 in Tryon, North Carolina, Simone began playing piano by ear when she was just three-years-old, laying the groundwork for her love of Bach, Chopin, Brahms, Beethoven and Schubert that would carry her throughout her life.

Simone graduated as the valedictorian of her high school class and dreamed of attending the prestigious Curtis Institute in Philadelphia to study classical piano, but was denied admission. Simone would go on to attend Juilliard School of Music instead.

In 1954, Simone took a job playing piano at the Midtown Bar & Grill in Atlantic City to make ends meet. The bar’s owner wanted her to sing as well as play piano, and she adopted the moniker “Nina Simone,” and showcased her brand of jazz, blues, and gospel for the bar’s patrons.

After catching the eye of the record industry when she was 24, Simone reimagined jazz standards and used her platform to speak out against discrimination and racism. Songs like “Mississippi Goddam,” “Strange Fruit,” “Four Women,” and “Backlash Blues” illustrated to America that Simone was not just an incredible singer, but a woman who was unafraid to speak her mind, even if it put her life and career in jeopardy.

On April 21, 2003, Nina Simone died in her sleep at her home in Carry-le-Rout, Bouches-du-Rhone, France.

In her lifetime, Simone released more than three-dozen albums, garnered numerous awards, received three honorary degrees, and will forever be known as the “High Priestess of Soul.” Her music and legacy will live on forever.

What’s your favorite Nina Simone song?

  • Aria08

    “Strange Fruit” by a looong shot.

    Love, love that woman!

  • MimiLuvs

    “Do I Move You?”
    “I Put a Spell on You”
    “Four Women”
    “Feeling Good”
    “Seems I’m Never Tired Lovin’ You”

  • LaDonna

    Another vote for “Strange Fruit”!

    I’m also a big fan of “Four Women”

    As for Nina’s covers, I love, love, love her version of “My Way” by Frank Sinatra and “Turn, Turn, Turn” by the Byrds.

  • hoo boy

    Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood

    Ain’t Got No-I Got Life

  • Lynne

    “Don’t Explain.” “My Baby Just Cares for Me.”

    And “Mississippi Goddam” when people get on my nerves.

  • la mala

    I loves you, porgy & do I move you

  • Starla

    Sinnerman

  • RJ

    To be young gifted and black and Mississippi Goddamn.

  • RJ

    Slightly off topic, but I always think of how bold Ms. Simone was. She puts so many entertainers today to shame.

  • http://Clutchmagazine Richard Jordan

    Nina Simone did not record “feelings”, however I love her rendition of the tune when she performed it in 1976 at the Montreux jazz festival.

  • vintage3000

    I saw her performance of I Got Life on youtube during a random search, and it helped get me through a very depressing time in my life. Fantastic song.

  • craniumrinse

    “See Line Woman” and “Mississippi Goddamn”

  • lw

    1. See Line Woman
    2. Wild Is Wind
    3. Put A Little Sugar In My Bowl
    Dang, now I’ve got to go listen to some Nina!

  • O4W Anarchist

    “Sinnerman” (live)
    “Don’t Let Me be Misunderstood” (live)
    “Four Women”
    “See-Line Woman”
    ” I Put A Spell On You”

  • O4W Anarchist

    Sinnerman(live)
    Four Women
    See-Line Woman
    Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood(live)
    I Put A Spell On You

  • Jessica

    Nina Simone was more than an artist. She was more than a Civil Rights activist. She was an inspiration to all who heard her velvet voice(To Be Young Gifted and Black).

    She was the one who broke the restraints on the image of dark-skinned black women(“I wish I knew how it would feel to be free. I wish I could break all the chains holdin’ me.”)She dared to be who she really was boldly, unashamedly, with unflappable grace, before the world. And the world marveled at her incredibly exquisite style; for the real Nina had naturally superior talent; she wore the royal robes of the stellar Diva. Nina Simone was procurer of the courageous genius of her generation.

  • supaflynfuchsia

    Feelin Good and The Other Woman

  • Candy

    “Ain’t Got No…I’ve Got Life”
    “Don’t let me be Misunderstood”
    “Four Women”
    “Sinnerman”

    In that order.

  • kgchrissy

    House of the Rising Sun all time favorite

  • Chantel DaCosta

    Feeling Good

  • honeybeemee

    Mississippi, Got Damn
    See Line Woman

  • ThatGirl

    For anyone that enjoys Nina Simone, check out the Nina Simone-Remixed and reimagined album. It’s really well done

  • Krysie869

    Nina Simone – “Baltimore”

  • Kim

    Feeling Good.

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