Eunice Kathleen Waymon, more commonly known as Nina Simone was born in Tron, North Carolina on February 21, 1933. She is most famously known as an American singer, songwriter, civil rights activist, and musician. Simone’s music genre expanded throughout classical, jazz, folk, blues, R&B, gospel, and pop. Learn more about her and her background as we celebrate her special day today!
Eunice Kathleen Waymon, more commonly known by her stage name Nina Simone, was born on February 21, 1933, in Tryon, North Carolina. She is most famously known for her skills as a singer, songwriter, civil rights activist, and musician. Simone’s music genre expanded throughout classical, jazz, folk, blues, R&B, gospel, and pop.
Simone was the second youngest of eight children. She was born into a poor family in Tryon, North Carolina. When Simone was young she initially wanted to be a concert pianist. She was able to attend the Allen High School for Girls in Asheville, North Carolina on scholarship. After graduating, she enrolled in the Juilliard School of Music in New York City where she studied for a brief three months. At the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia she was denied admission because of her skin color, and ironically, days before her death in 2003, the institution awarded her an honorary degree.
Simone changed her name to Nina Simone to disguise herself from family members and started playing piano in a nightclub in Atlantic City, which launched her career as a jazz vocalist. Her family felt that the music that Simone sang was evil. She went on to record more than 40 albums between 1958 and 1974, making her debut with “Little Girl Blue” and her 1958 hit single ‘I Love You, Porgy’.
Simone’s genre of music was fused with gospel and pop, inspired by classical music and accompanied by her expressive jazz-like singing in her contralto voice. She was also known for using her musical platform to speak out and raise issues about activism and equality, in an interview Simone expressed “I think women play a major part in opening the doors for better understanding around the world.”
Simone receives her first nomination for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance for the track ‘(You’ll) Go to Hell’ from her 13th album Silk & Soul from 1967.
In this legendary song, Simone exposes the Eurocentric racial standards imposed on black women in America.
Simone has a documentary made about her life.
Simone publishes her autobiography “I Put a Spell on You” written by Stephen Cleary.
Nina Simone receives the Grammy Hall of Fame Award for her song ‘I Love You, Porgy.’
Why We Love Nina Simone
Simone was a child prodigy
Simone graduated valedictorian of her high school class and studied at the Julliard School of Music for a brief period before applying to Philadelphia's Curtis Institute of Music. She was denied admission because of her race. Two days before her death, the school awarded her an honorary degree.
She has many books written about her
Books about Nina Simone include her 1993 autobiography “I Put a Spell on You” written by Stephen Cleary. Book titles about her include “Nina Simone: Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood” by Richard Williams, “Nina Simone” by Kerry Acker, “Nina Simone, Black is the Color” by Andrew Stroud, and “What Happened, Miss Simone?” by Alan Light. Simone also inspired a book of poetry, “Me and Nina,” by Monica Hand.
She has a street named after her
In the city of Nijmegen, in the Netherlands, there is a street named “Nina Simone Street.” It was named in honor of the legendary artist and activist, who had also lived in Nijmegen from 1988 to 1990.
5 Surprising Facts
She never had a number one hit
Although her music is recognizable worldwide, her most famous song only peaked as the number two hit in 1959.
Her career in protest began very early
Simone has expressed in an interview how her activism and protest work began at the very young age of 12.
Nina Simone is her stage name
The name Nina was her boyfriend’s nickname for her at the time, while Simone was inspired by Simone Signoret, an actress the singer admired.
One of her songs was banned
Her 1964 anthem ‘Mississippi Goddam’ took her only 20 minutes to an hour to write and was banned due to its political nature.
Nina moved around a lot
Simone expressed in an interview just how many places she lived in, including New York City, Liberia, Barbados, England, Belgium, France, and Switzerland.
Nina Simone FAQs
What is Nina Simone's most famous song?
Nina Simone’s top three most famous songs are ‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood,’ ‘My Baby Just Cares for Me,’ and ‘Feeling Good.’
Did Nina Simone marry a white man?
In 1961 Simone Married Andry Stroud, a tough police detective on the Harlem beat.
How did Nina Simone pass away?
In her final years, reports indicated that Nina Simone was battling breast cancer. She died at the age of 70 on April 21, 2003, at her home in Carry-le-Rouet, France. While she may be gone, Simone left a lasting impression on the world of music, art, and activism.
Nina Simone’s birthday dates