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Nina Simone: Jazz and Civil Rights

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Her name was Eunice Kathleen Waymon; however, in the musical scene, she is better known as Nina Simone. This African-American vocalist, pianist, and songwriter was born in North Carolina, on February 21, 1933. She was the sixth of eight children. Fortunately, a sponsor paid for her piano lessons, and this was the way she could start her musical career.

Her style is categorized as jazz even though she never agreed on labels; others portray her work as soul, and blues. She first started to participate from the local church choir, and she showed that she was gifted as a pianist too. One incident that motivated her to involve in the civil rights movement occurred when she made her debut, and her parents had to move from the front seats for the whites to sit down there; due to this situation, Nina decided to fight and join the civil rights movement.

When she was seventeen, she moved to Pennsylvania, where she continued studying at Juilliard School of Music in New York City and, at the same time, teaching piano to other singers. She wanted to become the first African-American concert pianist, but she was rejected in the interview at the Curtis Institute, where she planned to continue learning more about piano.

1961 was the year in which Simone recorded her version of the single "The House of the Rising Sun"; this song was recorded by Bob Dylan some years later. There are other songs of her own repertoire, such as "I Put a Spell on You", "Here Comes the Sun" sang by The Beatles, Four Women and so on. Her live performance was very resourceful; she easily shifted from different sounds: gospel, folk, and blues to jazz. She usually told funny stories about her career when she was onstage.

She had some divergences with her managers and recording companies in the year 1971; as a matter of fact, she declared the reason of these problems was racism. For those reasons, she left the country but returned in 1978; she had lived in other countries in Africa, Europe and the Caribbean. Her status as a singer was negative: she was considered as explosive and complicated to work with. She had some troubles regarding tax evasion too.

Her music is still popular among new generations and it has become part of different soundtracks, for example in movies like Shallow Grave and Before Sunset. Nina Simone passed away on April 21, 2003.

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