Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Before Beyonce: Nina Simone


Eunice Kathleen Waymon (February 21, 1933 – April 21, 2003), better known by her stage name Nina Simone, was an American singer, songwriter, pianist, arranger, and civil rights activist. Although she disliked being categorized, Simone is most associated with jazz music. Simone originally aspired to become a classical pianist, but her work covers an eclectic variety of musical styles that include classical, jazz, blues, soul, folk, R&B, gospel, and pop. Her vocal style is characterized by intense passion, a loose vibrato, and a slightly androgynous timbre, in part due to her unusually low vocal range which veered between the alto and tenor ranges (occasionally even reaching baritone lows). Also known as The High Priestess of Soul, she paid great attention to the musical expression of emotions. Within one album or concert she could fluctuate between exuberant happiness and tragic melancholy. These fluctuations also characterized her own personality and personal life, amplified by bipolar disorder with which she was diagnosed in the mid-1960s, something not widely known until after her death in 2003, though she wrote of it openly in her autobiography published in 1992. According to Nadine Cohodas, Simone's biographer, Ms. Simone was first diagnosed with multiple personality disorder and later with schizophrenia.

Simone recorded over 40 live and studio albums, the greatest body of her work released between 1958 (when she made her debut with (Little Girl Blue) and 1974. Her most well known songs include "My Baby Just Cares for Me", "I Put a Spell on You", "Four Women", "I Loves You Porgy", "Feeling Good", "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood", "Sinnerman", "To Be Young, Gifted and Black", "Mississippi Goddam", "Ain't Got No, I Got Life," "I Want a Little Sugar in My Bowl", and "Love Me or Leave Me".

Her music and message made a strong and lasting impact on culture, illustrated by the numerous contemporary artists who cite her as an important influence. Several hip hop musicians and other modern artists sample and remix Simone's rhythms and beats on their tracks. In particular, Talib Kweli and Mos Def routinely pay tribute to her outstanding and soulful musical style. Many of her songs are featured on motion picture soundtracks, as well as in video games, commercials, and TV series.

I Ain't Got No...I Got Life

I Wish I Knew How It Feels to be Free


  1. Great tribute to such a talented woman!

  2. Unique. Expressive. Visceral. Raw. Gifted. Queenly. Authentic. Stately. Opinionated. Angry. Sensual. Enigmatic. Beautiful. Revolutionary. Woman. Nina.

    If Nina Simone never existed, we would have had to INVENT her!


  3. This was beautiful! I love hearing about more of US and how we impacted the world, in various ways.

  4. @JStar
    Talented is really an understatement when it comes to this woman!

  5. @MP
    Brotha Pen you always know how to express something perfectly! If I could hire you as a translator of emotions, you'd be on the payroll bruh!

    "If Nina Simone never existed, we would have had to INVENT her!"

    This is all that needs to be said, really.

  6. @Traci
    The two songs I posted just scratch the surface of just how important Nina Simone was. People know who she is, but she should be appreciated much more in my opinion.

  7. Her mental illness reminds me of one of my favorite singers, Phyllis Hyman, who suffered as well. I def want to read Nina's biography.

    Thanks for the info, Jason.

  8. I am planning a post about Phyllis Hyman in the near future. I've read the biography, it's really informative and sad but it helps in understanding the brilliance and madness that went on Dr. Simone's head.

    You're welcome Val!

  9. Great post! I love reading about artists that arent spoken of often. Anyway, I heard Mary J was playing her in a biopic. Im going to look up what happened to it. I wouldve totally went to see it.

  10. Loved this...one of my favorite songs of hers was 4 Women...i used to perform to it all the time, enjoying the moodiness, sadness and fierceness of this woman's music. Thanks for this!

  11. YES YES YES YES YES!!! Amazing post, Nina Simone is such a talent. I absolutely love her music...he rendition of The Look of Love always gives me goosebumps! :)

    That GOOD GOOD Blog

  12. @Khaki
    I can't picture Mary J. as Nina Simone but she may own the role. I haven't heard anything about the movie lately. Nina life deserves a movie, she was an interesting lady.

    Thanks for dropping by Khaki!

  13. @Miz
    Four Women is an undeniable classic and it still give me chills when I hear it, along with Sinnerman, her rendition of Strange Fruit and Images.

    You're Welcome Miz!

  14. @Dee
    You're absolutely right! Nina was the ish!

  15. I love her so much, when people discuss great music I'm always like "what about Nina?" lol

    Did you write that? It is amazingly well written :-)

  16. @Poppy
    I love her so much too! She definitely should be apart of the music legend discussion.

  17. What a great resource!