Bring back some good or bad memories


February 21, 2024

Stunning Studio Portraits of Nina Simone Taken by Jack Robinson in 1969

By the time she was photographed by Jack Robinson on October 30, 1969, few singers had fused gospel and pop with classical music as successfully as Nina Simone (February 21, 1933 – April 21, 2003). Born as Eunice Kathleen Waymon in North Carolina, her early hopes of becoming a classical pianist were dashed by doors closed to her on account of poverty and color. She persisted, eventually singing in a nightclub to pay for her musical education, leading to her first hit, a version of Gershwin’s “I Love You, Porgy”. Simone’s bearing and stage presence earned her the title “High Priestess of Soul.”

Born Eunice Kathleen Waymon in Tryon, North Carolina on February 21st, 1933, Nina’s prodigious talent as a musician was evident early on when she started playing piano by ear at the age of three. She became sensitive to racism when at age 12 she gave a piano recital in a library where her parents had to stand in back because they were Black. A student of classical music at the Juilliard School of Music in New York City, she began performing as a pianist. Her vocal career began in 1954 in an Atlantic City, New Jersey, nightclub when the club owner threatened to fire her unless she sang too. Her first album featured her distinctive versions of jazz and cabaret standards, including “I Loves You, Porgy,” which became a 1959 hit.

In the 1960s Simone added protest songs, became a friend of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X, and performed at civil rights demonstrations. Her 1964 song “Mississippi Goddam” exemplifies this period. Her popularity grew as she added folk and gospel selections as well as songs by the Bee Gees, Bob Dylan, and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins (“I Put a Spell on You”) to her repertoire. Angered by American racism, she left the United States in 1973 and lived in Barbados, Africa, and Europe for the rest of her life.

Like her private life, her career was turbulent, and she gained a reputation for throwing onstage tantrums, insulting inattentive audiences, and abruptly canceling concerts. A 1980s Chanel television commercial that included her vocal “My Baby Just Cares for Me” helped introduce her to many new, younger listeners. A similar rebirth occurred in the 21st century when her 1965 recording of “Sinnerman” was remixed as an electronic dance music standard. Despite ill health, she continued to tour and perform, and she maintained a devoted international following until her death in 2003.


Post a Comment



Browse by Decades

Popular Posts


09 10