Nina Simone was an American pianist, singer-songwriter and civil rights activist that incorporated elements of jazz, blues, classical, gospel, R&B and pop in her music. Born in Tryon, North Carolina, Simone at a young age aspired to be a concert pianist. She performed for her local church and eventually gained her first classical recital at age twelve. Due to segregation, her parents, originally seated in the front row, were forced to move in the back. Simone refused to play until her parents were allowed back in the front seats. She grew up and later attended Juilliard School of Music. Her career skyrocketed with songs like “I Loves You, Porgy”, ”Mississippi Goddam”, and “Four Women”, a haunting song about four different stereotypes of African-American women. Simone continued making music until 2003, the year she died at age 70. Today, Nina Simone is regarded as one of the most powerful female blues singers and her music is known for being very influential in the fight for equality in the United States.
Illustration by Kay Kelley