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2003-04-22

Nina Simone 1933-2003: The High Priestess of Soul Dies at Age 70

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She was called the High Priestess of Soul. She was one of the most influential American musicians of the last century. She was a singer, composer and pianist. She fused elements of spiritual, jazz and protest songs. She was Nina Simone.

Nina Simone died yesterday at her home in France at the age of 70.

Simone was born Eunice Waymon in Tryon, North Carolina in 1933 as one of eight children. She sang in church and began playing the piano at age two. She studied piano at the Julliard Conservatory in New York and planned on a career as a concert pianist, but she began singing in nightclubs to earn a living. A 1959 concert in New York’s Town Hall turned her into a star.

In the 1960s and 70s, Simone moved from popular ballads to protest songs as the civil rights movement gathered steam.

She left the United States in 1973, denouncing the racism in the country, and lived in the Caribbean and Africa before settling in Europe.

As late as 1998, she said she felt a palpable disgust at the treatment of blacks in the US.

Artists of all different kinds said Simone influenced their work, including Aretha Franklin, Sade, India Arie, Norah Jones and Peter Gabriel.

  • Dave Marsh, editor of the journal Rock N Roll Confidential. He is the author of many books on music. He is currently working on one about the freedom songs of the civil rights movement.

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