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Profile of the Day: Nina Simone

On this day in 1933, singer, songwriter, and civil rights activist Nina Simone was born.

Image: Nina Simone / Wikimedia Commons, Nationaal Archief, CC0

Simone was born Eunice Kathleen Waymon on February 21, 1933 in Tryon, North Carolina. She was the sixth of eight children born to John Divine Waymon and Mary Kate Irvin. Around the age of 3, she began playing the piano and was soon performing at her local church. She studied classical piano and even earned a scholarship for a one-year program at the Juilliard School.

In 1954, she began performing at the Midtown Bar & Grill in Atlantic City, New Jersey, where the owner insisted she sing as well as play the piano. During this time, she adopted the stage name “Nina Simone” so that her disapproving parents didn’t discover that she was singing in nightclubs. Her mixture of classical piano, blues, and jazz earned Simone a loyal fan base.

Over the course of her career, Simone recorded over 40 albums and became known as one of the most gifted jazz vocalists of the time. Simone was also active in the civil rights movement and would perform songs during civil rights protests. In 1964, she released “Mississippi Goddam” in reaction to the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama and the murder of activist Medgar Evers. In 2019, the song was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Recording Registry for being culturally and historically significant.

Simone died on April 21, 2003 at the age of 70.

View Nina Simone’s Geni Profile

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