NINA SIMONE

Simone was born Eunice Waymon in Tryon, North Carolina into a large family (eight children) which was introduced to music by the parents, both of whom played music. Simone was making a start on the piano at age four and was singing gospel at the local church not long after that, modeling herself at the time on Marian Anderson. She was trained as a pianist to play all types of music, the classics included, but took a natural liking to jazz and blues in her teens. After leaving school at 17, she moved to Philadelphia and taught piano, then she enrolled at Juilliard School, studying music for two years. After this Simone started out on a career in Pittsburgh which combined her often impressionistic, romantic piano playing with her strong alto voice and raw emotive edge. This led to a quick record in 1957 for the Bethlehem label and a hit with her intense version of "I Loves You, Porgy".

Nina Simone

Simone signed with Columbia Pictures' recording offshoot, Colpix Records, making diverse and her dedication to expressing whatever lay within her during the time of performance. Colpix albums such as At Town Hall (1959) and At Newport (1960) gave her audience a considerable taste of her interpretative abilities as well as her imaginative piano accompaniment. By the time of her Carnegie Hall debut in 1963, Simone was drawing on ever-wider sources for her
Nina Simone

material: her change to the Philips label in the mid-1960s found her recording French songs, protest songs, classical arrangements, and cheesy nightclub ephemera as well as folk-song leftovers and straightforward jazz. For the first time, as well, as Kurt Weill crept into her repertoire. Such a disparate lot of working material would have been the end of most singers, but Simone was consistently able to turn dross into gold and to pull all these elements together into an intense and meaningful overall experience, both live and on record. In the later 1960s she went even further, recording Bee Gees and Bob Dylan songs, but her blues roots were never far behind. Simone had a quiet time of it in the 1970s and early 1980s, but a revival of an old 1957 recording of hers, "My Baby Just Cares For Me" (tied to a TV commercial) gave her a number-one hit in the UK and revived her career in Europe. Simone continues to tour internationally and has long gone past the point of being a legendary performer. Although she has never been simply a jazz performer, such strong of jazz and blues have been so evident in her music from the start that her audience inevitably see that as her proper image.