Watch: What happened, Miss Simone?
“How do you explain what it feels like to get on the stage and make poetry that you know sinks into the hearts and souls of people who are unable to express it?”
Nina Simone is one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century. She was a woman of many talents: the abilities to play by ear, sing in perfect pitch, and translate her humanity into music. Twelve years after her death, Nina’s daughter, Lisa Simone Kelly, helped create and produce the documentary film What Happened, Miss Simone, so she would not be forgotten. Today’s #DailyRevolution is to watch the film, and listen to her music.
Since the film was released, along with many newly reissued albums, songs and interviews, Nina Simone’s popularity has significantly increased. However, she has always been a significant leader. Her story carries on many truths that are relevant today. She was often rejected due to her darker complexion and natural hair, her sexuality and social activism. She continues to pave the way for what it means to be Young, Gifted, and Black.
A civil rights activist, and a voice of the Civil Rights Movement, Nina was the ultimate songstress. At this time in history new black leaders were coming up in America and the movement was burgeoning. Songs like Mississippi Goddam unabashedly addressed the murder of black communities. In this particular recording (linked above), Martin Luther King Jr. had just died. The pain inflicted on African Americans reverberated through her body and voice as she speaks about it on the recording.
Nina Simone was originally born Eunice Kathleen Waymon, from North Carolina. She grew up in a strict religious family. She was inspired to play classical piano, but against her mother’s wishes she started moving from classical music to what she called “Black classical music.” The white term, “jazz,” according to Nina, was used to define black people. She began playing in clubs and gained popularity with songs like “I Loves You Porgy.” Eventually she began making more political music, bolstering her public image as an activist.
We must remember her, always. She is one of the most talented musicians of all time. She was and still is able to embody so much of the story of African Americans, and particularly African American women, in this country. If you have not had the pleasure of listening to her, be prepared. She will make you laugh, cry, and touch a part of your soul that you didn’t know was there.
If you feel inspired, we recommend listening to the albums Forever Young, Gifted, and Black: Songs of Freedom and Spirit, Baltimore, and Let it Be Me.