Nina Simone / Eunice Kathleen Waymon – USA (1933 – 2003)

The Diva, born February 21, 1933 in Tryon (North Carolina/USA) – † April 21, 2003 in Carry-le-Rouet, France).who was as well an Honorary Doctor in Music and Humanities, has an unrivalled legendary status as one of the very last ‘griots”. She is and will forever be the ultimate songstress and storyteller of our times.

Listen to many of her songs on YouTube of 1962, as for example:

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Nina Simone / Eunice Kathleen Waymon (02-21.33 – 04-21-03)

Read on BBC: Jazz legend Simone dies.

Bio, by Roger Nupie, President “International Dr. Nina Simone Fan Club“: Excerpts: … Eunice Waymon was born in Tryon, North Carolina as the sixth of seven children in a poor family. The child prodigy played piano at the age of four. With the help of her music teacher, who set up the “Eunice Waymon Fund”, she could continue her general and musical education. She studied at the Julliard School of Music in New York. To support her family financially, she started working as an accompanist. In the summer of 1954 she took a job in an Irish bar in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The bar owner told her she had to sing as well. Without having time to realize what was happening, Eunice Waymon, who was trained to become a classical pianist, stepped into show business. She changed her name into Nina (”little one”) Simone (”from the French actress Simone Signoret”) …

… When four black children were killed in the bombing of a church in Birmingham in 1963, Nina wrote Mississippi Goddam, a bitter and furious accusation of the situation of her people in the USA. The strong emotional approach of this song and the others on her first Philips record (”Nina Simone In Concert”), would become another characteristic in her art. She uses her voice with its remarkable timbre and her careful piano playing as means to achieve her artistic aim: to express love, hate, sorrow, joy, loneliness – the whole range of human emotions – through music, in a direct way …

… On July 24, 1998 Nina Simone was a special guest at Nelson Mandela’s 80th Birthday Party. On October 7, 1999 she received a Lifetime Achievement in Music Award in Dublin. In 2000 she received Honorary Citizenship to Atlanta (May 26), the Diamond Award for Excellence in Music from the Association of African American Music in Philadelphia (June 9) and the Honorable Musketeer Award from the Compagnie des Mousquetaires d’Armagnac in France (August 7).

Dr. Simone passed away after a long illness at her home in her villa in Carry-le-Rouet (South of France) on April 21, 2003. As she had wished, her ashes were spread in different African countries. (Read the full text, mainly her work as artist, on Dr. Nina Simone’s Biography, on one of her webpages.

Listen for some seconds to her voice, and read, on:

Other good links:

Civil rights era (1964–1974): Simone was made aware of the severity of racial prejudice in America by her friends Langston Hughes, James Baldwin and Lorraine Hansberry (author of the play Raisin in the Sun). In 1964, she changed record labels, from the American Colpix to the Dutch Philips, which also meant a change in the contents of her recordings. Simone had always included songs in her repertoire that hinted to her African-American origins (such as “Brown Baby” and “Zungo” on Nina at the Village Gate in 1962). But on her debut album for Philips, Nina Simone In Concert (live recording, 1964), Simone for the first time openly addresses the racial inequality that was prevalent in the United States with the song “Mississippi Goddam”. It was her response to the murder of Medgar Evers and the bombing of a church in Birmingham, Alabama, killing four black children. The song was released as a single, being boycotted in certain southern states. With “Old Jim Crow” on the same album she reacts to the Jim Crow Laws.

From then onwards, the civil rights message was standard in Simone’s recording repertoire, where it had already become a part of her live performances. She covered Billie Holiday’s (”Strange Fruit”) on Pastel Blues (1965), which is a statement on the lynching of black men in the South, and sang the W.Cuney poem “Images” on Let It All Out (1966), talking about the absence of pride in the African-American woman. Simone wrote the song “Four Women” and sings it on Wild Is the Wind (1966). It is about four different stereotypes of African-American women.

Simone again moved from Philips to RCAvictor in 1967. She sang “Backlash Blues”, written by her friend Langston Hughes on her first RCA album, Nina Simone Sings The Blues (1967). On Silk & Soul (1967) she recorded Billy Taylor’s “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free” and “Turning Point”. The last song illustrates how white children would get indoctrinated with racism at an early age. The album Nuff Said (1968) contains live recordings from the Westbury Music Fair, April 7th 1968, three days after the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King. She dedicated the whole performance to him and sang “Why? (The King Of Love Is Dead)”, a song written by her bass player directly after the news of Dr. King’s death had reached them.

Together with Langston Hughes, Simone turned the late Lorraine Hansberrys unfinished play “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” into a civil rights song. She performed it live on Black Gold (1970). A studio recording was released as a single, and the song became the official “National Anthem of Black America” and has been covered by Aretha Franklin (on 1972s Young, Gifted and Black) and Donny Hathaway. (full text).

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