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Nina Simone (born Eunice Kathleen Waymon; February 21, 1933 – April 21, 2003) was an American singer, songwriter, pianist, arranger, and civil rights activist who worked in a broad range of musical styles including classical, jazz, blues, folk, R&B, gospel, and pop.
Born in North Carolina, the sixth child of a preacher, Simone aspired to be a concert pianist. With the help of the few supporters in her hometown of Tryon, North Carolina, she enrolled in the Juilliard School of Music in New York.
Waymon then applied for a scholarship to study at the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where she was denied despite a well-received audition. Simone became fully convinced this rejection had been entirely due to her race, a statement that has been a matter of controversy. Years later, two days before her death, the Curtis Institute of Music bestowed an honorary degree on Simone.
To make a living, Eunice Waymon changed her name to "Nina Simone". The change related to her need to disguise herself from family members, having chosen to play "the devil's music" or "cocktail piano" at a nightclub in Atlantic City. She was told in the nightclub that she would have to sing to her own accompaniment, and this effectively launched her career as a jazz vocalist.
Simone recorded more than forty albums, mostly between 1958, when she made her debut with Little Girl Blue, and 1974, and had a hit in the United States in 1958 with "I Loves You, Porgy".
Simone's musical style fused gospel and pop with classical music, in particular Johann Sebastian Bach, and accompanied expressive, jazz-like singing in her contralto voice.
To fund her private lessons, Simone performed at the Midtown Bar & Grill on Pacific Avenue in Atlantic City, whose owner insisted that she sing as well as play the piano, which increased her weekly income to $90 a week. In 1954, she adopted the stage name "Nina Simone". "Nina" (from niña, meaning "little girl" in Spanish), and "Simone" was taken from the French actress Simone Signoret, whom she had seen in the movie Casque d'Or. Knowing her mother would not approve of playing the "Devil's Music", she used her new stage name to remain undetected. Simone's mixture of jazz, blues, and classical music in her performances at the bar earned her a small but loyal fan base.
In 1958, she befriended and married Don Ross, a beatnik who worked as a fairground barker, but quickly regretted their marriage. Playing in small clubs in the same year, she recorded George Gershwin's "I Loves You, Porgy" (from Porgy and Bess), which she learned from a Billie Holiday album and performed as a favor to a friend. It became her only Billboard top 20 success in the United States, and her debut album Little Girl Blue soon followed on Bethlehem Records. Simone lost more than $1 million in royalties (notably for the 1980s re-release of My Baby Just Cares for Me) and never benefited financially from the album's sales because she had sold her rights outright for $3,000.
After the success of Little Girl Blue, Simone signed a contract with Colpix Records and recorded a multitude of studio and live albums. Colpix relinquished all creative control to her, including the choice of material that would be recorded, in exchange for her signing the contract with them. After the release of her live album Nina Simone at Town Hall, Simone became a favorite performer in Greenwich Village. By this time, Simone performed pop music only to make money to continue her classical music studies and was indifferent about having a recording contract. She kept this attitude toward the record industry for most of her career.
Simone married a New York police detective, Andrew Stroud, in 1961. He later became her manager and the father of her daughter Lisa, but he abused Simone psychologically and physically.
FROM WIKIPEDIA: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nina_Simone