Nina Simone – The voice of civil rights

Nina Simone - The voice of civil rights

Nina Simone, original name Eunice Waymon, is an American singer. She was born in February 1993 in North Carolina, US. She sang songs of black empowerment, protest, and love in an intense dramatic style. She took the stage name Nina Simone. It’s said that “Nina” is derived from the Spanish word “niña”, a nickname used by her then boyfriend, and  “Simone” because she was inspired by the French actress “Simone Signoret”.

She has played piano and organ since she was a little girl. At the age of 12, she gave a piano recital in a library and her parents had to stand in the back because they were black. That’s when she started feeling the racism that was happening in the country. She studied music at Julliard School of Music in NYC, and started performing as a pianist in Atlantic City. She was actually threatened to sing or else she’d be fired, which led her career as a singer to start in 1943.

The artist built a career and a reputation around expressing her thoughts on racial injustice and being the voice of the civil rights movement in the mid-60s. Speaking and singing for the African Americans through songs like “Mississippi Goddam,” “I Wish I Knew How it Would Feel to be Free,” and “Four Women.” She maintained personal friendships with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. Two noted leaders and civil rights activists. She also sang about oppression, standards of beauty for black women, and righteous anger following hundreds of years of slavery and racism. Although her ultimate goal was to become the first black classical piano concert pianist, she didn’t want to do classical, not even popular music anymore, just civil rights music, which did hurt her career as a performer. 

Simone showed musical genius throughout her career that couldn’t be ignored or denied. She performed for more than 40 years and traveled the world. She suffered from severe mental health problems, diagnosed with manic depression. Despite her illness she kept on touring and doing her music taking medication. She died in France in 2003. Two documentaries on the musician’s life were released: The Amazing Nina Simone, directed by Jeff L. Lieberman, and What Happened, Miss Simone?, which you can watch on Netflix. 

During her career she received 15 Grammy nominations and the Grammy Hall of Fame award in 2000. Two days before her death, she was awarded an honorary diploma from Curtis institute, the music school that declined to admit her when she was 19 years old because she was black. 

 

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