THE HIGH PRIESTESS OF SOUL
ACTIVE FROM 1954 - 2003
Simone, regarded as one of the most influential recording artists of the 20th century, spanned a broad range of musical styles including classical, jazz, blues, folk, R&B, gospel, and pop and accompanied expressive, jazz-like singing in her contralto voice. In the beginning of her career, she enrolled in the Juilliard School of Music in New York City. She then applied for a scholarship to study at the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where she was denied admission despite a well-received audition, which she attributed to racial discrimination. To make a living, Simone started playing piano at a nightclub in Atlantic City. She changed her name to "Nina Simone" to disguise herself from family members, having chosen to play "the devil's music" or so-called "cocktail piano". She was told in the nightclub that she would have to sing to her own accompaniment, which effectively launched her career as a jazz vocalist. She went on to record more than 40 albums between 1958 and 1974, making her debut with Little Girl Blue. She had a hit single in the United States in 1958 with "I Loves You, Porgy." As her career was characterized by "fits of outrage and improvisational genius,” her composition of "Mississippi Goddam" broke the mold. Having the courage as an established black musical entertainer to break from the norms of the industry and produce direct social commentary in music was unheard of during the early 1960s.