Yesterday we marked the birthday of Nancy Wilson. Today, we’ll commemorate the birthday of another jazz vocalist–Nina Simone. She was a singer, songwriter, pianist, arranger, and civil rights activist. She was born in Tryon, North Carolina in 1933. Her original name was Eunice Kathleen Waymon, and she was born the sixth child of a preacher. She was introduced to the piano at an early age and often played at the local church. She had a real knack at the keyboards and aspired to be a concert pianist.
After being enrolled in the Julliard School of Music, she applied for a scholarship at the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music, but was denied despite her well-received audition. She always attributed her rejection due to her race. After getting out of school she got a job at an Atlantic City nightclub singing jazz and pop songs. That’s when she change her name to Nina Simone, because she wanted to disguise her musical effort from her very religious family because they thought that jazz was ‘the devil’s music.’
Simone recorded over 40 albums, and her style is a fusion of gospel, pop, jazz, and classical music.
“Little Girl Blue” was one of the first songs that propelled her to stardom. They were quickly followed by hits such as “I Love You Porgy,” “My Baby Just Cares For Me,” Four Women,” Mississippi God Damn,” and of course “Baltimore.”
A recent documentary entitled “What Happened Miss Simone” was aired on cable TV, which dispells many of the mysteries which swirled around this mythical icon. “I Put A Spell On You,” was one of her great hits, and she continues to put a spell on our listening audience, as well as others who are interested in learning more about jazz and beyond.
Let’s wish Ms. Simone a Happy Birthday!