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A Birthday Remembrance of Nina Simone

Jason K's picture

nina simone

Nina Simone, “The High Priestess of Soul”, was born on this day in 1933. Her virtuosity and eclecticism made her a revered figure in American music, whose consummate artistry transcends the limitations of genre. Simone’s legacy is also inextricably linked with her steadfast commitment to the Civil Rights movement; reflected in her powerful—now definitive—renditions of protest songs, in addition to her own original compositions. She has been cited as an inspiration by artists in virtually every genre of music: from pop (Beyoncé, Madonna) to soul (Aretha Franklin, Mary J. Blige) to hip-hop (Mos Def, Lauryn Hill) to rock (John Lennon, Nick Cave). Unsurprisingly, her songs have also been featured in myriad film and television productions. (Perhaps the most surprising and effective recent example is the inclusion of Simone’s “Stars” in the season-three finale of the animated series BoJack Horseman.) There’s no better way to celebrate the life of this complicated and vital artist than by delving into her songs and sharing your discoveries with others. If you’re looking for an accessible starting point, I highly recommend Anthology, which contains 31 career highlights, including “I Put a Spell on You”, “Sinner Man”, “Don’t Let Me be Misunderstood”, and “I Wish I Knew (How it Would Feel to be Free”. The more expansive collection Four Women: The Nina Simone Philips Recordings contains the entirety of her recorded work on the Philips label during the years 1964-1966, providing an opportunity to truly immerse yourself in one of the most productive epochs of Nina Simone’s career. If you prefer to engage with her music by listening to her individual albums, check out Simone's 1958 debut Little Girl Blue and her 1965 album Pastel Blues.