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A mural of Nina Simone in Denver, Colorado.

I love this mural of Nina Simone. She was such a gifted singer and pianist. I even named my cat after her. I have a habit of naming my cats after musicians I admire.  I currently have Simone, Marley and I have two beloved cats who have crossed the rainbow bridge Elton and McCartney. Nina Simone was not just a talented performer she was also a fearless advocate for civil rights. She was inducted into the Rock and roll Hall of Fame and was given a Lifetime Achievement Grammy. She mixed classical, Jazz and R&B and has been called “The High Priestess of Soul” 

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My Miss Simone. She is as wild and free-spirited as her namesake was.

Nina Simone was born into poverty in North Carolina in the 1930s. It’s almost hackneyed to say someone a “child prodigy” but Nina was outplaying many adults on the piano at age three. Nina studied at the prestigious Julliard school in new york and had dreams of being a classical pianist.  But when her application to the Curtis School in Philadelphia was rejected Simone was crushed. She always contended that she was rejected because of her race and that “no one wanted to see a black classical performer.” The school always denied this allegation, but after Simone’s death in 2003, the school said they found paperwork that proved Nina Simone had in fact been denied the application based on her race.

Nina Simone is considered one of the best improvisational pianists of the twentieth century. She mixed elements of Jazz, Classical (especially her beloved Bach), and soul. She also spoke out against the Jim Crow laws at a time most African-American performers were afraid to do so, and she took the hit for it. Having been blacklisted and banned in many cities in the American South. Her song “Mississippi God Damn” was unflinching and blunt. She could have been much wealthier and commercially successful, but Simone didn’t care; she had to be true to herself.

If you haven’t ever heard one of her recordings, please check it out. I especially love “Feeling Good,”  Her version”My Baby just cares for me” is great, and I think her cover of “Here comes the Sun” is just exquisite. Unlike the Beatles version which is joyful and exuberant Simone’s take is pensive and eloquent.  I just love it. Definitely give her a listen. You may like her too even if you don’t name a cat after her.

 

 

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