How does one classify the unclassifiable? In her fifty years as an entertainer, Nina Simone consistently defied categorization by playing (often at the same) the roles of singer, pianist, dancer, actress, arranger and political activist. Moreover, her repertoire was as diverse as the roles she played, spanning the styles of jazz, soul, R&B and pop to gospel, folk, blues and even Broadway. The High Priestess of Soul, as her fans called her, was renowned for her distinctive vocal style, characterized by a passionate low-range vibrato and theatrical display of shouts, whispers, moans and even silence. With her rare ability to stir such intense response from her audiences, it is fitting that Nina Simone became a key figure in the civil rights movement of the 1960s, fighting through her art for justice and racial equality. Known to the world by her independence and brave spirit, Dr. Nina Simone is truly one of the preeminent artists of our time.
In the grand hierarchy of the greatest African-American female vocalists of the 20th century – Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Mahalia Jackson, Ella Fitzgerald, Dinah Washington, and Aretha Franklin, among them – Nina Simone (1933-2003) holds a special position of honor for the fearless role she played as an uncompromising ambassador of cultural pride at the height of the Civil Rights and Black Power movements from the late 1950s to the 1970s.
Underpinning her status as one of the outspoken voices of that tumultuous period in history was Nina Simone’s fascinating and wide-ranging musical taste. Her palette ranged from the 1920s blues and jazz of Duke Ellington and Miles Davis, to the standard songbook of Irving Berlin and the Gershwins, from traditional American balladry and the poetry of Langston Hughes, to the folk and folk rock of Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Randy Newman, Richie Havens, Sandy Denny, Jimmy Webb (and many others). Her song choices further spanned the repertoire of the Beatles, the Byrds, the Bee Gees, and Hair, to Olatunji and the exciting new strains of Afro-pop and World Music before the genre even had a name – and much more.
All these musical roots and branches of Nina Simone’s life are explored in depth on TO BE FREE: THE NINA SIMONE STORY, a deluxe new four-disc (three CDs + DVD) box set that is the most comprehensive and wide-ranging collection of Nina Simone’s music ever compiled. Containing 51 audio tracks – eight of them previously unreleased – covering her recording years from 1957 to 1993 for the Bethlehem, Colpix, Philips, RCA (for whom she cut nine LPs that are considered the pinnacle of her output), CTI, and Elektra record labels, plus another nine performances on the 23-minute documentary DVD – the box set will be available at all physical and digital retail outlets starting September 30th through RCA/Legacy, a division of SONY BMG MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT.
Don't forget to check out Nina Simone's Discography!
Nina was born in North Carolina, USA, February 21, 1933. In the late 50s she recorded her first album. One song, "I Loves You Porgy", became a hit and Nina became a star, performing at Town Hall, Carnegie Hall and at jazz festivals with a repertoire ranging from gospel music to African music, from blues to Ellington songs, from classical music to folk songs of diverse origin.
Although Nina was called the "High Priestess of Soul" by her fans and was regarded by them as an almost religious figure, she was often misunderstood as well. The High Priestess would walk different paths to find the adequate songs to spread her message.
A protest singer; a jazz singer; a pianist; an arranger and a composer, Nina Simone is a great artist who defies easy classification. She is all of these: a jazz-rock-pop-folk-black musician. In fact, we can find her biography in jazz, rock, pop, black and soul literature. Her style and her hits provided many singers and groups with material for hits of their own.
Nina Simone died April 21, 2003 in Carry-le-Rouet, Bouches-du-Rhne, France.
All video content is provided by Youtube, and any questions, comments, or concerns regarding such content should be directed to Youtube