Nina Simone Day

February 21, 1933 – April 21, 2003

 

The unique singer-pianist is remembered

Singer, pianist, and songwriter Eunice Kathlee Waymon (“Nina Simone”) was born on February 21, 1933 in Tryon, North Carolina.

She began playing piano at the age of four and was considered a child prodigy who was heading towards a career as a classical pianist.

However lack of funds to attend Juilliard and the racism of the era short-circuited her dream and instead she worked as a pianist in bars.

Told in 1954 that she had to sing in order to keep her job, she added vocals to her performances and changed her name so her mother would not know that she was playing popular music rather than classical.

Her recording debut resulted in a hit version of “I Loves You Porgy” and a later hit in “My Baby Just Cares For Me.”

As she developed, Simone created music that ranged from jazz to folk, r&b, soul, pop and anti-racism protest music.

Her most significant work was in the 1960s when she was very involved in the civil rights movement, recording such numbers as “Mississippi Goddam,” “Four Women,” “To Be Young, Gifted And Black,” “Old Jim Crow,” and “Strange Fruit.”

A major name by the mid-1960s, Nina Simone created her own world of music throughout her career and, although her career and life declined after the early 1970s, she remains an inspiring figure in music history.

She is featured with her group performing “Ain’t Got No, I’ve Got Life.”

-Scott Yanow