Nina SimoneJazz Singer and Pianist By Stewart Mason
An iconic, uncompromising and wide-ranging artist.
More than perhaps any other jazz singer, Nina Simone contains multitudes. One of the very few jazz musicians equally praised as both a singer and an instrumentalist, the classically-trained Simone originally aspired to be a concert pianist, but also possessed one of the most distinctive and rich vocal instruments of her era. An outspoken fighter for civil rights with some separatist tendencies, she wrote politically-charged anthems as proud as "To Be Young, Gifted and Black" and as savagely angry as "Mississippi Goddam." Yet she was also a sensitive balladeer with a flirty, sexy side: her 1958 recording of "My Baby Just Cares For Me" is the definitive take of the Tin Pan Alley standard. A jazz and blues historian with a particular love for Duke Ellington and Bessie Smith, Simone also happily recorded rock songs after The Animals scored hits with her reworking of the folk standard "House of the Rising Sun" and her original "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood." (Simone was particularly fond of British rockers, recording several early Bee Gees songs and releasing a 1972 live album, Emergency Ward, consisting almost entirely of extended gospel-tinged reworkings of George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord" and "Isn't It A Pity.") Leaving behind the political tumult of the early '70s with an escape to France, where she lived in semi-retirement for most of the rest of her life, Simone performed and recorded only rarely after 1974's It Is Finished, but she remains an iconic figure of her time.
|Nina Simone's Pop Connections|