By Evette D. Champion
In an interview, Nina Simone was asked to talk about her use of music as a political weapon. Although she had to think for a second, she quickly states that she has used music to defend the rights of #Black Americans, as well as those from third world countries. She believes her music can be used as protest songs, songs of empowerment, and songs that encourage change.
When she was asked what goes through her mind while she is on stage, the interviewer suggests that she just focuses on the lyrics. Almost instantly she corrects him and states that in her mind, her main focus is to shed light on the wrongs that were committed against her people and those around the world.
She wants the audience to remember that important point.
Instead of singing from anger, like the interviewer suggests, Nina Simone sings from an intellectual place, a place where she is able to let people, know that she knows where they come from, who they are, and the hardships they have faced.
Nina Simone became the icon of civil rights during the 1960s, thanks to her soulful music that had a profound message. As a young girl, it was very obvious that she was a talented musician and singer—she was being groomed to become the nation’s first #African American concert pianist.
When she was not admitted into the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, her life changed. She turned to performing in Atlantic City, where she honed her signature raspy voice and adopted her stage name, Nina Simone.
It would be five years until her rendition of Gershwin’s “I Loves You, Porgy,” would take her from being basically an unknown to having a hit record on the charts.
There is a biopic available on Netflix called, “What Happened, Miss Simone?,” which gives fans a deeper look into the life of the singer and activist. The documentary opens with a performance she did in 1976 at the Montreux Jazz Festival.
In this, one thing is clear—she has begun to despise the very thing that made her so well-known and have the ability to speak out for the African American community. Perhaps if she had not been rejected from Curtis all those years ago and her feeling that pain and constant reminder of her race, we would never have known who Nina Simone, born Eunice Waymon, was.