Jazz Legends: Nina Simone

Exploring the Influence of Dr. Nina Simone

Dr. Nina Simone had one of the most captivating voices in American music history. She was a classically trained pianist combined with an extraordinary singer and composer who revolutionized the term “Diva” she was brilliant.

Born in 1933, Eunice Kathleen Waymon, in Tryon, North Carolina, she transformed her life into a national then international sensation named Nina Simone. Her style was completely unique, elegant as high fashion, real as a simple sun dress and sandals and as fierce as her revolutionary attitude.

Dr. Simone began her career in the 50’s and until her death created, sang and played her music to audiences fortunate enough to have witnessed “The High Priestess” perform her artistry. As a consummate, ever evolving, artist who sought to engage her fans, some shows were better than others and not everyone liked ALL of her performances but no one could deny her brilliance. Dr. Simone’s participation in the civil rights movement marked a significant change in the message and direction of her music and her live shows would, at times, challenge the acceptance of her fans.

In the 60’s Dr. Simone wanted to inspire young Black people to become curious as to who they are and where they came from. Her songs were composed to be as powerful as she could make them to accomplish that goal. “To be Young, Gifted and Black” was a perfect example of how serious she took her purpose as an artist. From Ellington to Gershwin, The Beatles to Screaming Jay Hawkins, once Nina sung a song, it was hers. Dr. Simone’s rendition of “Strange Fruit” is my favorite version of that classic, how could anyone not feel that?

Atlanta has love for Dr. Simone as the National Black Arts Festival brought the tribute show last July featuring Diane Reeves, Liz Wright, Simone and Joi Guilliome with a band composed of former members of her various bands. The Atlanta Symphony Hall was sold out for an unforgettable evening in ’09.

Again the music and legacy of Dr. Simone will be celebrated in Atlanta as we host “The Nina Simone Experience” from 041610 to 042510 in Atlanta’s historic West End at Space Atlanta and Thirteen Ten Events, both located at 1310 White St. in Atlanta. Simone, Nina Simone’s only child, will return to Atlanta with The Nina Simone Experience and another ensemble of three other vocalists to perform a tribute concert to her mother.

For all who know or would like to know more about this incredible lady, join us in the West End from the 16th to the 25th as we share and explore the life of an American icon. We need to never let Nina Simone’s legacy be forgotten or even worse, go unknown. For more information about Dr. Nina Simone, visit www.ninasimone.com or www.simonesworld.com.

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