Black History Month 2013: Nina Simone

25 Feb

Nina Simone in Pink Dress and Gold TurbanToday I would like to honor and pay tribute to one of my personal heroes, Nina Simone. Her 80th birthday was this month and we lost her nearly ten years ago. I remember crying my eyes out on April 21, 2003 when I heard that Nina Simone died. I fell in love with her smoky jazz voice so many years ago.  I can’t drink gin without thinking of our Nina.

Eunice Kathleen Waymon was born in Tryon, NC, and aspired to be a classical pianist. Despite her prodigious talent, she was denied scholarships and admissions and pursued a career in clubs instead. Eventually signed to Colpix, she was boxed into a pop-jazz mode for a few years. She took the standards she was given and began subverting them with her unique style — she was described as being a piano player, singer, and performer, “separately and simultaneously.” Over the years her stage set became famous for her powerful interpretations and righteous original songs.

Simone’s response to the assassination of Medgar Evers and the bombing of the church in Birmingham that killed four children, was Mississippi GoddamIn Mississippi Goddam, we see Simone taking her place in the civil rights movement. Unlike Dr. King, Simone advocated violence if necessary in order to establish a separate state for African-Americans – who could blame her. You can only feel beaten down so much without building up a great amount of rage. I have such a great admiration for Dr. King for sublimating his rage into non-violent means.The song Backlash Blues was written by her friend Langston Hughes. Simone was also friends with Lorraine Hansberry and turned one of her plays, To Be Young, Gifted and Black into a civil rights song.  In 1972, Aretha Franklin did a cover of that song.

Nina Simone you are missed and cherished.


9 Responses to “Black History Month 2013: Nina Simone”

  1. Jennifer Carey February 25, 2013 at 6:33 am #

    One of my favorite singers.

  2. Didion February 25, 2013 at 7:45 am #

    I’ll never forget hearing her sing for the first time. I was in college and getting educated on all manner of cultural things that I’d been ignorant of as a kid — and hearing her voice for the first time I didn’t know whether she was male or female, old or new. All I knew was that I had to keep listening. I’m inspired by this, Michael: I’m starting up a Simone playlist right now. And this evening, perhaps I’ll have some gin to join you.

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt February 25, 2013 at 8:03 am #

      I love thinking about us both listening to our Nina and drinking some gin this evening! 🙂

  3. dykewriter February 25, 2013 at 9:07 am #

    Reblogged this on dyke writer and commented:
    no way I can no share this one.


    thanks for all your hard work


    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt February 25, 2013 at 9:13 am #

      Thank you for reblogging this!

      • dykewriter February 25, 2013 at 9:42 am #

        many many years ago, when I was still a baby dyke

        a women who was a customer of my place of employment would call me Nina Simone

        so after a while, I just asked her if she was flirting with me

        she turned an amazing shade of red and never did it again….

        made me sad actually

      • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt February 25, 2013 at 1:40 pm #

        I’m sorry she shied away from this after you asked her, but how cool to be called Nina Simone!


  1. Album of the Week, March 17: I Am A Bird Now by Antony and the Johnsons | Music and Meaning: The RBHS Jukebox - March 17, 2013

    […] his enigma. He is an accomplish pianist and frequently cites the unique keyboard and voice work of Nina Simone as a primary influence. Besides his usual stalwarts in the Johsnons, he assembled a stunning array […]

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