April 21, 2003: Nina Simone’s swan song
Today is the 20th anniversary of Nina Simone’s death. The American singer, songwriter and activist remains unmatched as an undeniable force to be reckoned with, both on and off stage.
Born February 21, 1993 in North Carolina, she began her musical journey as a pianist. Even at her first public recital at just 12, Simone was using her platform to speak out against injustice, asking her parents to sit across from white audience members.
Her first album, ‘Little Girl Blue’ was released in 1959 and received immediate attention. A career in music flourished, with Simone adamantly maintaining creative control throughout her future releases. She first signed with Colpix Records and then with Dutch Philips Records, where she continued to sing about her experiences as an African-American.
His song “Mississippi Goddam” was about the 1963 bombing of a church in Alabama that killed four black girls, as well as the murder of Medgar Evers.
Simone performed and spoke at marches alongside some of the biggest names in the civil rights movement, from Martin Luther King Jr. to Selma to her support of Malcolm X, with whom she lived in New York.
While Simone would never regret her actions, she acknowledged that her public stance on race, often told through her music, has hindered her career. After boycotts and a warrant for her arrest, she left the United States for good in 1970. Simone went on to live in Barbados, the UK, Liberia, Switzerland, France and the Netherlands before settling permanently in southern France near Aix-en -Provence.
He died there in 2003, aged 70.
To celebrate his life, here are five of his most badass quotes:
“I’ll tell you what freedom is for me. Don’t worry!” “This is the world you made for yourself, now you have to live in it.” “Jazz is a white term for black people. My music is black classical music. “I’ve always been a politician from the day people for civil rights they chose me as their protest singer”. “Sometimes I sound like gravel, and sometimes I sound like coffee and cream.”