black women

Nina Simone is not her real name: 10 other interesting things you may not know

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Nina Simone was an American singer, songwriter, pianist, arranger, and civil rights activist widely associated with jazz music. She is best known for her mastery piano skills in the genres of classical, jazz, blues, folk, R&B, gospel and pop music. Here a few interesting facts about the trailblazing artist.

  1. Nina Simone is not her real name.  Simone was born Eunice Kathleen Waymon in Tryon, North Carolina.
  2. Nina Simone almost gave up on her dreams of becoming a concert pianist.  Her musical path changed direction after she was denied a scholarship to the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, despite a well-received audition. Simone was later told by someone working at Curtis that she was rejected because she was black, which saved her from walking away from the piano forever.
  3. Becoming a singer was sort of an accident.  When she began playing in a small club in Philadelphia to fund her continuing musical education and become a classical pianist, she was required to sing as well. That’s when she was approached for a recording by Bethlehem Records, and her rendering of “I Loves You, Porgy” was a hit in the United States in 1958.
  4. She received a Grammy Hall of Fame Award in 2000 and was a fifteen-time Grammy Award nominee over the course of her career.
  5. She was a civil rights activist even at the age of 12. Her concert debut was a classical recital held at a local church. Simone said that during this performance her parents, who had taken seats in the front row, were forced to move to the back of the hall to make way for white people. Simone said she refused to play until her parents were moved back to the front.
  6. One of Nina’s songs was banned in the U.S. Simone was becoming popular during a time much racial tension. Simone for the first time, openly addressed the racial inequality that was prevalent in the United States with the song “Mississippi Goddam”, her response to the murder of Medgar Evers and the bombing of a church in Birmingham, Alabama that killed four black children. The song was released as a single, and it was boycotted in certain southern states.
  7. Simone spent a great part of her life running from US authorities. Simone left the United States in September 1970, flying to Barbados and expecting Stroud to communicate with her when she had to perform again. However, Stroud interpreted Simone’s sudden disappearance, and the fact that she had left behind her wedding ring, as an indication of a desire for a divorce. As her manager, Stroud was in charge of Simone’s income. When Simone returned to the United States she learned that a warrant had been issued for her arrest for unpaid taxes causing her to return to Barbados again to evade the authorities and prosecution.
  8. She also had an affair with the Prime Minister of Barbados. Simone stayed in Barbados for quite some time and she had a lengthy affair with the Prime Minister, Errol Barrow.
  9. Simone was the recipient of a Grammy Hall of Fame Award in 2000 for her song “I Loves You Porgy.” She has also received fifteen Grammy Award nominations.
  10. Only two days before her death, Simone was awarded an honorary degree by the Curtis Institute, the music school that had refused to admit her as a student at the beginning of her career