Black history month artistic figures day five: Singer, pianist, and activist Nina Simone.
Nina Simone was born Eunice Kathleen Waymon in Tryon, North Carolina in 1933. She started playing piano when she was three years old and dreamed to one day become an a concert pianist. Her first official recital performance was it a classical recital when she was 12. Her parents, who had taken front row seats for the recital, were forced to move to the back due to segregation at the venue. When Simone found out about it, she refused to play until her parents were allowed to move back to the front. This event sparked her later activism.
With the help of scholarship money, Simone was able to attend Allen High School for Girls in Asheville, North Carolina. After her graduation she spent the summer of 1950 at the Juilliard School, as a student of Carl Friedberg, preparing for her addition at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. Despite a fantastic and well received audition, Simone was denied admission to the school. She suspected racial prejudice was to blame.
In order to make ends meet, Simone ended up taking a job as a resident pianist and singer at a bar. This is when she changed her name from Eunice Waymon to Nina Simone, in order to disguise her identity from her minister parents who did not approve of her playing “the devil’s music“ in bars and clubs. Her mixture of genres, including jazz, blues, and classical music in her performances at the bar earned her a small but loyal fan base.
Though she had always drawn on her African-American roots in her music, in the 60s and 70s Simone became very active in civil rights and anti-Vietnam causes. She wrote her now well known song “Mississippi Goddam” in response to racist attacks and murders, including the high profile Birmingham church bombing that killed for little black girls and partially blinded a fifth. She considered it her first civil rights anthem.
Later in life Simone moved Barbados and then France, where she lived out her days until passing of breast cancer in 2003. Her ashes were scattered in several African countries and she is survived by one daughter, an actress and singer who uses the stage name Simone.
found @ 28 likes ON 2018-05-26 02:18:23 BY ME.ME