Have you ever listened to the music of Nina Simone? A friend introduced me to her with the songs “I Put a Spell on You” and “Feeling Good”, after which I was hooked. But aside from enjoying her music I didn’t know much about her. That is, not until recently, when I stumbled across the Netflix documentary What Happened, Miss Simone?
This audio described documentary starts with Nina when she was born as Eunice Waymon. As a child she was trained to be the first female African-American classical pianist, but that dream died with her racist exclusion from music school. Eunice took the stage name of Nina Simone and became a lounge singer, though she had never sung before. The documentary explains how she fell in love with and married a man who nurtured her career and abused her. Her fierce support of and participation in the civil rights movement is shown, as well as her fall from and resurgence to the public eye. Using interviews, archival videos, and even her diaries the documentary depicts the real Nina Simone.
Don’t have Netflix? Luckily the documentary inspired a book based on the same content.
What Happened, Miss Simone? A Biography
by Alan Light
In-depth portrait from a music journalist of the singer and activist Nina Simone (1933-2003). Using archival footage, interviews, and Simone’s diaries, the author examines Simone’s youth in the Jim Crow South, her musical career and civil rights activism, and her reclusive later years in Liberia and Paris. Unrated. Commercial audiobook. 2016.