Black History Month Profiles: Happy Birthday Ms. Nina Simone

84 years ago today, the singer was born in North Carolina on February 21st, 1933; she was the sixth of eight children.

This singer was known for her distinct vocals, and stage presence while performing. Having playing the piano regularly for the community choir by the time she was six, she had garnered much attention. Though she also had encounters with civil rights at a young age as well. During her first recital at the age of ten, Simone witnessed her parents being forced to give up their seats and move to the back of the room for a white family that wanted a better view. Simone refused to play until her parents were in their original seats. “nothing was easy any more,” as she wrote in her 1991 memoir I Put a Spell on You.The vocalist then became more active in civil rights movements.

Her distinctive low vocal range was iconic and made for a unique fusion of her genres in her songs. Notably jazz, gospel and blues references. Her songs then reflected as such. One of her  many well known covers, “Sinnerman” shows her respecting her gospel roots ( her mother being a Methodist minister), “Strange Fruit” her Billie Holiday cover attributing to her civil rights movement, or “I Put a Spell on You“, her demonstration of unstructured performing and her amazing live vocals.

Not all of her songs were covers of course. Again being active during the civil right movement, after the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Alabama in 1964, Simone wrote Mississippi Goddamn in less than an hour.

The lyrics showed her disgust with the events, contrasting the up tempo with angered lyrics:

Yes you lied to me all these years
You told me to wash and clean my ears
And talk real fine just like a lady
And you’d stop calling me Sister Sadie

Oh but this whole country is full of lies
You’re all gonna die and die like flies
I don’t trust you any more
You keep on saying “Go slow!”
“Go slow!”

April 21st, 2003, Simone passed while sleeping in her home in France. By this time she had been diagnosed with breast cancer, though that is not the official cause of death. Simone was a icon because of her ability to perform carefree while defying musical standards at the time. A field, predominantly white at the time, Simone was able to find success while still being herself.

Happy Birthday Ms Simone.

 

 

For more of her music, please visit:

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