Nina Simone is considered one of the most influential and gifted recording artists of the 20th century. Born Eunice Kathleen Waymon in Tryon, North Carolina on February 21, 1933. Simone was a singer, songwriter and pianist that refused to be constrained by the boundaries of traditional music genres.
Simone came from humble beginnings. Her mother, Mary Kate Waymon, was a Methodist minister and housekeeper. Her father, John Divine Waymon, was a handyman and a preacher. Simone showed musical talent when she began playing the piano at age 3. Within a few years she was playing piano Sunday mornings at at her mother’s church services. She went on to study with pianist Muriel Mazzanovich, who tutored Simone in classical music. Simone received a grant to study at the Juilliard School of Music in New York City, after graduating at the top of her high school class.
Simone was determined to make a living as a musician. She took a job at a night club playing the piano and singing jazz even though she had no experience as a vocalist. In a short time Simone had a loyal following and a few years later she began headlining at nightclubs along the East Coast. She made her recording debut with the album Little Girl Blue. She had her first hit in the United States in 1958 with “I Loves You, Porgy“, the single rose to the Top 20 of the pop charts. Simone recorded more than 40 albums between 1958 and 1974.
Rolling Stone named Simone the 29th-greatest singer of all time, writing, “her honey-coated, slightly adenoidal cry was one of the most affecting voices of the civil rights movement”.
In 2000, Simone was the recipient of a Grammy Hall of Fame Award for her interpretation of “I Loves You, Porgy.” On Human Kindness Day 1974 in Washington, D.C., more than 10,000 people paid tribute to Simone. Simone has received four career Grammy Award nominations, two during her lifetime and two posthumously. She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2018.
“I think women play a major part in opening the doors for better understanding around the world.”
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