(Eunice Waymon) (1933-2003)
Born into a poor Southern family, she showed early talent as a pianist, and went on to study classical piano at Julliard School in New York. She was paying the rent playing as an accompanist in a bar when asked to sing, and from what quickly metamorphosed into the great singer Nina Simone. She found success in the mid 1950s with her version of I Loves You Porgy from Gerwshin’s opera Porgy and Bess. Her growing reputation saw her apply her brilliant interpretive talent to some of the greatest songs of recent decades, including her rendition of Cole Porter’s comically provocative The Laziest Gal In Town, her haunting version of Belgian singer-singwriter Jacques Brel’s classic Ne Me Quitte Pas, the liberated self-assurance of her Take Care of Business and Don’t Take All Night, her sweet gospel He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands, and the soul-wrenching lament of the song of parting lovers, For All We Know. She was also a fervent campaigner for civil rights, as witnessed by her strident Mississippi Goddam (written after a multiple murder of young black people in the South) and her eerie, superbly controlled version of the anti-lynching song made famous by Billie Holiday, Strange Fruit. She also continued composing for the piano, with works including her popular jazz vignette Central Park Blues. During the 1970s she quit America and lived abroad, in Africa and Europe. Another of her best-loved songs was My Father Always Promised Me (That We Would Live In France), and that is precisely what the great Nina Simone did - and where she died too, in 2003.

By Larry Buttrose


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