My daughter as Nina Simone: Nina Simone was born Eunice Waymon in Tryon, NC. She displayed musical talent early on when she started playing the piano by ear at 3. Her mother cleaned houses for a woman who would become her benefactor providing formal piano lessons which introduced her to Johann Sebastian Bach and other classical masters. Despite her undeniable talent, she was not selected for a scholarship at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. To support herself, she began to teach students and play other people’s songs in nightclubs. Her brilliant improvisations and vocal stylings started getting her noticed. The song “Mississippi Goddam” came about as a result of her anger over the assassination of Medgar Evers and the church bombing in Birmingham that killed four little girls and began the sharp departure she would take from popular music. She mingled with all the great Black minds of her time James Baldwin, Stokley Carmichael but it was her friendship with playwright Lorraine Hansbery led to the creation of the anthem “ To Be Young, Gifted and Black”. Dubbed “The High Priestess of Soul”, she put out 40 albums in her lifetime.
Her performances drew on a lot of musical genres like blues, gospel and folk to create a new type of American classical music. On stage, she presented herself as the epitome Afrocentric regality which challenged and continue to challenge predominant standards of beauty. She was not afraid to call on her contemporaries and her audiences to act. Her legacy continues to inspire. Most recently, singer John Legend started his Oscar acceptance speech with a quote by Simone stating, “It’s an artist’s duty to reflect the times in which we live.”