February 21, 1933- April 21, 2003
Born in North Carolina, the sixth child of a preacher, Simone aspired to be a concert pianist. With the help of the few supporters in her hometown of Tryon, North Carolina, she enrolled in the Juilliard School of Music in New York.
Waymon then applied for a scholarship to study at the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where she was denied despite a well-received audition. Simone became fully convinced this rejection had been entirely due to her race, a statement that has been a matter of controversy. Years later, two days before her death, the Curtis Institute of Music bestowed an honorary degree on Simone.
To make a living, Eunice Waymon changed her name to "Nina Simone". The change related to her need to disguise herself from family members, having chosen to play "the devil's music" or "cocktail piano" at a nightclub in Atlantic City. She was told in the nightclub that she would have to sing to her own accompaniment, and this effectively launched her career as a jazz vocalist.
Simone recorded more than forty albums, mostly between 1958, when she made her debut with Little Girl Blue, and 1974, and had a hit in the United States in 1958 with "I Loves You, Porgy".
Simone's musical style fused gospel and pop with classical music, in particular Johann Sebastian Bach, and accompanied expressive, jazz-like singing in her contralto voice.
Simone was born Eunice Kathleen Waymon in North Carolina and raised in Tryon, North Carolina. The sixth of eight children in a poor family, she began playing piano at age three; the first song she learned was "God Be With You, Till We Meet Again". Demonstrating a talent with the instrument, she performed at her local church. But her concert debut, a classical recital, was given when she was 12.
Simone later said that during this performance, her parents, who had taken seats in the front row, were forced to move to the back of the hall to make way for white people. She said that she refused to play until her parents were moved back to the front, and that the incident contributed to her later involvement in the civil rights movement.
Simone's mother, Mary Kate Waymon (1902 - April 30, 2001), was a Methodist minister and a housemaid. Simone's father, John Divine Waymon (1898 - October 24, 1972), was a handyman who at one time owned a dry cleaning business, but also suffered bouts of ill health. Simone's music teacher helped establish a special fund to pay for her education. Subsequently, a local fund was set up to assist her continued education. With the help of this scholarship money she was able to attend Allen High School for Girls in Asheville, North Carolina.