Nina Simone, Again And Always

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Singer/composer Nina Simone, voice of brilliant black artistry, is back in a new documentary. We’ll dive in.

This file image from the Dutch National Archives is a portrait of singer Nina Simone, taken in 1965. (Creative Commons / WikiCommons)
This file image from the Dutch National Archives is a portrait of singer Nina Simone, taken in 1965. (Creative Commons / WikiCommons)

Young Nina Simone just wanted to play Bach. To be the world’s first great black classical pianist. That did not work out, perhaps because of race. Racism. And the rest of her life was a wild ride. Of passion and politics, amazing artistry and blazing anger. Nina Simone sang, played, composed. Jazz, blues, standards, fiery protest songs. She was in the heart of the Civil Rights movement, and fell apart when it fell apart. She was bold, brutally honest, troubled. A new documentary tells her story as the times make it urgent again. This hour On Point: all about Nina Simone.
-- Tom Ashbrook


Liz Garbus, Oscar-nominated filmmaker and director. Director of the new documentary film, "What Happened, Miss Simone?" Also director of "Bobby Fischer Against the World," "Killing in the Name" and "The Farm: Angola, USA," among many others. (@lizgarbus)

Salamishah Tillet, professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania. Author of "Sites of Slavery: Citizenship and Racial Democracy in the Post-Civil Rights Imagination." (@salamishah)

From Tom’s Reading List

Guardian US: Nina Simone: 'Are you ready to burn buildings?' -- "'What Happened, Miss Simone?' makes the case that Simone was not only one of the most talented musicians of the 20th century but one of the most troubled and unlucky. It shows how she always felt she had been denied her true calling; how she never achieved the success that prettier, more biddable singers enjoyed; how she invested so much of herself in the civil rights movement that she was shattered when it faltered; how she suffered physical abuse from her husband and manager Andrew Stroud and inflicted it on her daughter Lisa; how her bipolar condition was only diagnosed in the 1980s, long after her volatility had inflicted irreparable damage. She was an outcast who only briefly found safe harbour — first as a wife and mother, then as an activist – before it was snatched away. Not fitting in made her great, but it also made her angry and very lonely."

New York Times: Nina Simone’s Time Is Now, Again — "Nina Simone is striking posthumous gold as the inspiration for three films and a star-studded tribute album, and she was name-dropped in John Legend’s Oscar acceptance speech for best song. This flurry comes on the heels of a decade-long resurgence: two biographies, a poetry collection, several plays, and the sampling of her signature haunting contralto by hip-hop performers including Jay Z, the Roots and, most relentlessly, Kanye West."

NPR Music: Lauryn Hill, Jazmine Sullivan Sing Nina Simone Songs At The Apollo Theater — "Nina Simone was singular: A prodigiously gifted classical pianist as a young child, Simone (née Eunice Waymon) grew to become an iconic blues and jazz singer and an outspoken Civil Rights activist whose music addressed turbulent times in America. Given Simone's legacy, Harlem's legendary Apollo Theater was an appropriate venue for Monday's New York premiere of the Netflix documentary What Happened, Miss Simone? — directed by Liz Garbus and available on the video streaming service starting June 26."

Watch The Trailer For "What Happened, Miss Simone?


This program aired on June 24, 2015.


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