Nina Simone (1933-2003) was an exceptional artist with an interesting and amazing story. A story that is important and still incredibly relevant today. As we are still working hard toward a fair future it is important to learn about the people who have worked hard to get us where we are today.
Simone noticed racism early on in her life. Like at the start of her music career when she refused to perform unless her parents were allowed to watch from their original seat, not the ones they had been moved to because of their skin color. She dreamed of being a classical pianist, taking inspiration from Beethoven and Mozart, but those dreams were shattered when she got rejected from Curtis Institute of Music for being a black woman. The then still Eunice Kathleen Waymon adopted her stage name; Nina Simone, when she started playing gigs in bars. Later in her career she would turn into a well respected activist and the musical essence of the civil right movement, but not without her ups or downs.
Simone's politics were very radical. She was a self proclaimed communist, integrationist and separatist. She didn't believe that white and black people could ever get along and felt as though races should be separated. She made it very clear she was not non violent even going as far as walking up to Martin Luther King and telling him that, to which he responded ‘that's okay sister, you don't have to be.’ She asked the crowds at her concerts whether they were ready to kill for their rights and made it clear that she was.
Her career suffered greatly from her involvement in human rights. Radio stations refused to play her music and even sent back her record to her broken in half. Due to her talking about the civil rights movement on stage she was getting booked less and less.
In the 70s her career had hit the lowest point. She had left behind her family and America's divided politics to live in paris. Playing for empty bars to get some cash. She had problems regarding money and problems regarding her mental health. a friend of hers did what someone should have done years ago; she requested that Simone would get professional psychological help.
There is controversy about Simone's personal life involving violence. her daughter has spoken up about the abandonment from her mother and later on abuse when she finally got to live with her causing her to move back in with her father. Simone admitted to trying to kill a company executive. She suspected they were duping her royalties and she tried to shoot him but missed. She also shot her neighbor's son with an airgun after he annoyed her by playing loud music. There are stories of Nina having physiological episodes after shows, told by the people close to her.
In 1983 Nina got diagnosed with bipolar disorder. It's represented in her fight for peace and in her rage, that she so beautifully translated in her music. Though she had her struggles Nina was and is an icon for her fight for civil rights and her fight with her neurodiversity. It is absolutely vital to never forget about that part of her. We will continue to move forward, with Nina in mind.