All Articles Tagged "nina simone"

“Nina Deserves Better” Zoe Saldana Explains Why The Nina Simone Biopic Hasn’t Come Out Yet

November 5th, 2015 - By Veronica Wells
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Image Source: Ealing Studios

Image Source: Ealing Studios

Have you been wondering what happened with the Nina Simone biopic, starring Zoe Saldana? We haven’t either. But in a recent interview with Latina, Saldana explained why it’s taken so long to get the project off the ground.

First, she explained how she prepared for the role of Simone:

“I read as much as I could and spoke to as many people who knew her, who interviewed her. I listened to her voice, to her tone. She was angry, and rightfully so. She was a black woman born ahead of her time. Her soul, her spirit was never able to accept or adapt to the heartbreaks that life was giving her. Those are means for insanity. She was bipolar, and at that time, very little was known about bipolar disorder. A lot of people were self-medicating through substances, and she was doing it with alcohol. I wanted to understand all those things, and see what that was going to bring out of me. I never wanted to judge her.”

And though she felt she had prepared herself for this complex character, there were many people who took issue with Saldana being cast as the darker complected Simone, particularly when she took great pains fighting for representation of Black women and Black people in society. Nina Simone’s daughter, who goes by the name Simone, even told Ebony, that she was sure issues of colorism stayed with her mother throughout her life, as she was told she was “too dark” and her nose was “too wide.” All of this makes the casting tragically ironic, particularly when the shots of Saldana in makeup are absolutely distracting.

In addition to the criticism, according to Salana, there are some behind the scenes issues that have kept the film from being released.

“I needed to walk her path. As a woman, it wasn’t difficult to empathize with another woman. But I needed to be very isolated. I moved out of my house for three months. I wasn’t really talking to anybody that I knew. I just needed to be all things Nina. It was so intense, and everything happened really fast. The people behind the project weren’t my cup of tea. The director was fine, but there was a lot of mismanagement, which is why we’re still here three years later. And I’m still trying to fight with everybody to get the movie finished. Nina deserves better.”

A part of me feels sorry for Saldana. It seems like she was surrounded by a large number of people who were, and apparently, still are unequipped to tell this story. And from the looks of things, it seems like the universe doesn’t even want this film to come out. In that regard, Nina Simone certainly does deserve better.

What do you think about the upcoming biopic? Do Saldana’s comments surprise you?

Lauryn Hill’s ‘Tonight Show’ Performance Will Have You “Feeling Good”

August 1st, 2015 - By Ashley Monaé
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Image Source: Shutterstock

Image Source: Shutterstock

A Lauryn Hill performance in itself is a rare happening, so when the musical legend made a TV appearance Thursday (July 30) night on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, we were all shocked and glued to our televisions.

Her performance featured a show-stopping number paying tribute to the late and great Nina Simone. “Feeling Good” was Hill’s choice of song as she put her own twist on the track with her signature raspy vocals.

Lauryn is featured on Nina Revisited: A Tribute to Nina Simone compilation, the accompanying soundtrack to the Netflix documentary What Happened, Miss Simone. Hill’s contributions to the project include vocals on several tracks like “Ne Me Quitte Pas,” “Black Is the Color of My True Love’s Hair,” “Wild Is the Wind,” “African Mailman” and “I’ve Got Life

Watch her rock the house with a stellar performance of “Feeling Good.”

Pass Or Play: Lauryn Hill Covers Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good”

June 19th, 2015 - By Veronica Wells
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It looks like the Nina Simone documentary What Happened, Miss Simone? is shaping up to be a huge success. Not just from the looks of the trailer but also the soundtrack.

Earlier, we told you that Jazmine Sullivan covered Simone’s song “Baltimore” about poverty and racial injustice in the city…much like today.

As the June 26 Netflix premiere date approaches, more information about the soundtrack is coming out. Turns out, Lauryn Hill is covering “Feeling Good.”

Any decent Lauryn HIll fan can recognize that her voice has changed over the years. It’s more raspy, grittier, with perfectly timed breaks.

These changes lend itself very well to this song particularly.

Take a listen to Lauryn Hill’s cover below and check out the full soundtrack list below.

1. Lisa Simone – “Nobody’s Fault but Mine (Intro)”
2. Ms. Lauryn Hill – “Feeling Good”
3. Ms. Lauryn Hill – “I’ve Got Life” – Ms. Lauryn Hill
4. Ms. Lauryn Hill – “Ne Me Quitte Pas” – Ms. Lauryn Hill
5. Jazmine Sullivan “Baltimore”
6. Grace – “Love Me or Leave Me”
7. Usher – “My Baby Just Cares For Me”
8. Mary J. Blige – “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”
9. Gregory Porter – “Sinnerman”
10. Common & Lalah Hathaway – “YG&B”
11. Alice Smith – “I Put A Spell On You”
12. Lisa Simone – “I Want A Little Sugar In My Bowl”
13. Ms. Lauryn Hill – “Black Is The Color Of My True Love’s Hair”
14. Ms. Lauryn Hill – “Wild Is The Wind”
15. Ms. Lauryn Hill – “African Mailman”
16. Nina Simone – “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free”


Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood: Nina Simone’s Heirs In Another Legal Battle With Sony

May 22nd, 2015 - By Ann Brown
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Nina Simone in 2002. Jimi Celeste/Getty Images

Nina Simone in 2002. Jimi Celeste/Getty Images

Nina Simone’s heirs are going to battle against her former music label, Sony Music. According to the legendary singer’s estate, the company is operating a piracy ring. According to court documents filed by the estate, 80 albums of recorded Simone performances are being sold via iTunes and other digital venues without authorization.

This tug-of-war between the estate and Sony has been going on for a while. At one point it seemed the dispute over Simone song rights was resolved last fall, but it has now escalated.

The family claims that Sony is pirating the songs through Orchard, a distributor of independent recordings which feeds tunes to Apple’s iTunes store, Google Play,, and others. In March Sony acquired Orchard for $200 million.

There have been many legal fights over Simone rights, particularly between Steven Ames Brown, an attorney who represented Simone, and Andrew Stroud, Simone’s former husband, manager, and producer. “In the midst of the fighting, Sony got involved because its predecessor RCA had contracts with the singer that date back to 1966,” reports Billboard.

But last October, Sony Music, Brown, and the Simone estate came to a settlement deal. However two weeks ago, Sony Music filed a claim in court to rescind the agreement because the other parties allegedly didn’t live up to their part of the deal. According to Sony, Brown believed that only reproduction rights had been given to Sony; this would limit Sony’s use of the singer’s music.

In response, Brown and the Simone estate made copyright infringement claims against Sony and Orchard regarding more than 80 albums of recorded Nina Simone performances that have been uploaded to digital outlets without authorization.

Brown and the Simone estate also don’t like Sony’s authorization of tribute albums or how “Simone’s name and likeness” is being used for “recordings made by other recording artists.”

Brown and the Simone estate want an injunction that would stop “Orchard from exploiting Simone’s music, a declaration that Sony can’t enjoy anything of the $84 million judgment against Stroud’s estate, and additional general and exemplary damages over additional claims that cover whether Sony has breached contract,” reports Billboard.

Still Relevant: Jazmine Sullivan Covers Nina Simone’s “Baltimore”

May 5th, 2015 - By Veronica Wells
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Jazmine Sullivan Covers Nina Simone's "Baltimore"

If you think 2015 is the first time the citizens of the city of Baltimore have risen up, think again. From the end of World War II and 1968 the Black citizens have Baltimore had suffered. There was a serious case of “White flight,” and the city, where many of the Black residents remained, was depleted. Black communities, much like today, had subpar housing, high infant mortality rates, fewer jobs and thus, more crime. Black Baltimore unemployment, at the time, was more than double the national average. Those who were employed worked in unsafe conditions or were paid less.

Then on April 4, 1968, there was an injustice much like the death of Freddie Gray. Dr. King was assassinated. During the memorial there was peace and then the rage set in. Windows were broken, fires were started. Police and the national guard moved in. By the end six people had died, 700 were injured, 1000 small businesses were damaged or robbed and 5,800 people were arrested.

The uprising inspired Nina Simone to return after a four-year recording hiatus to release the 1978 album Baltimore. 

For those who are unfamiliar with the song, Simone says,

The city is dying 

And they don’t know why

And then…

Oh, Baltimore

Ain’t it hard just to live 

A couple of weeks ago, we told you about the new Nina Simone documentary coming to Netflix and contemporary R&B vocalist Jazmine Sullivan is recording a cover of the original and there’s a video for her rendition that is quite poignant.

You can listen to Nina Simone’s original and watch and listen to Jazmine Sullivan’s beneath it. Both are sadly beautiful and extremely reflective of the times in which we live.

She Was Brilliant And She Paid For It: A Nina Simone Documentary Is Coming To Netflix

April 29th, 2015 - By Veronica Wells
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We’ve written before about the complexity of the artist and activist we knew as Nina Simone. And while we reported that a documentary about her life was coming to Netflix, now there is a trailer and release date attached to the project.

The film, What Happened, Miss Simone?, directed by Liz Garbus, will include never-before-heard recordings, archival footage, interviews, diary entires, letters and interviews with Nina’s daughter Lisa Simone Kelly.

You may remember last year, Lisa said, “My mother could be a monster. I was not a happy child when I was alone with her. My mum shot me down a lot, attacked me in public. It is easy to attack children, they are small and depend on you.” 

In the trailer for the documentary, Lisa applauded her mother’s talent, calling her one of the greatest entertainers to ever live. And in addition to that, she noted that Simone used her talent and her voice to fight for Black people. Lisa said, “She was a revolutionary, she found a purpose for the stage.”

Yet, there was another side to her. “When the show ended, she was alone, full of anger and rage.”

In the trailer, we hear Nina herself say, “I have to live with Nina and that is so difficult.”

Take a look at the trailer below and get ready to explore an extraordinary life.

The documentary will be released on Netflix, on Friday, June 26.

Netflix Will Produce A Nina Simone Documentary

December 7th, 2014 - By Courtney Whitaker
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For all of our Nina Simone fans out there, we have some great news!

Netflix and the Nina Simone Estate will release a new film titled “What Happened, Miss Simon?”. The film will premiere on Netflix in 2015 and will be directed by Liz Garbus. The VP of Original Documentary Programming for Netflix said

“In ‘What Happened, Miss Simone?,’ Liz Garbus paints a brave and provocative picture of Nina Simone  – artist, civil rights activist and heroine – in a film that we’ve loved from day one and are proud to bring to our viewers around the world,”

According to Indiewire,

Liz Garbus’ film will interweave never-before-heard recordings and rare archival footage together with Nina’’s most memorable songs, incorporating never-before-heard audio tapes, recorded over the course of 3 decades, of Nina telling her life story to various interviewers and would-be biographers. Rare concert footage and archival interviews, along with diaries, letters, interviews with Nina’’s daughter, Lisa Simone Kelly, friends and collaborators, along with other exclusive materials, will make this the most authentic, personal, and unflinching telling of the extraordinary life of one of the 20th Century’s greatest recording artists – a portrait of one of the “least understood, yet most beloved, artists of our time.”

This announcement comes after fans voiced their discomfort with Zoe Saldana playing the artist in “Nina.” Saldana was pictured in a wig with a prosthetic nose and makeup to darken her features.

The Nina Simone Estate and her daughter openly expressed their displeasure with the film. In an interview with the New York times, Simone Kelly stated, “My mother was raised at a time when she was told her nose was too wide, her skin was too dark. Appearance-wise this is not the best choice,” she said.

As for that film, it was screened at Cannes and is tied up in a major lawsuit with it’s director. We cannot wait for “What Happened, Miss Simon?” to hit our computer screens in 2015.

“My Mother Could Be A Monster” Nina Simone’s Daughter Tells The Truth About Her Mother

July 16th, 2014 - By Veronica Wells
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During her life, Nina Simone was no stranger to controversy. And now it seems, even years after her death in 2003, there is still some resentment and hurt behind her legacy. But this time, the person with grievances is Simone’s only child, daughter Lisa Celeste Stroud.

Stroud, the product of Simone’s abusive marriage to her former manager Andrew Stroud, became a singer and actress and took the moniker Simone with her on stage. But recently, in an interview with the Daily Mail, she made it crystal clear that there are lingering scars from the strained and often abusive relationship she shared with her mother.

Lisa Stroud told the Daily Mail that her mother suffered from depression and alcoholism which resulted in a tortured relationship between the two. It wasn’t until the late eighties that she was also diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

In her first time speaking about the relationship with her mom she said,

“My mother could be a monster. I was not a happy child when I was alone with her. My mum shot me down a lot, attacked me in public. It is easy to attack children, they are small and depend on you.”

When Simone died at 70, several family issues surfaced as they battled in the courts trying to settle her multi-million dollar estate.

Stroud said: “Ugly truths have come to and relationships have died because people treated me as a commodity. Too many people had ulterior motives.”

And after her less than normal childhood, it wasn’t an experience she was willing to repeat. As a young girl, Lisa recalls being dragged around the world touring with her mother and when she complained or refused to go, she was blackmailed or beaten. Her life had very little stability. By the age of seven, she had 13 governesses, was working by the age of 10, her mother’s chauffeur at 12. And at 14, she left her home after a beating.

When she got older, Simone did not support Lisa’s desire to join the U.S. Air Force or enter the music business and she disinherited her from her will.

Stroud said, “I’d like to think if she had taken two seconds to think about her behavior she would have done things differently but I’m not sure.”

In an attempt to explain her mother’s behavior Lisa says, “My mother was angry with the world and often the only person around to blame was me.”

She also spoke about the nature of her parent’s relationship. “When my parents were together my mother was more giving and open but with the divorce she turned into someone you didn’t want to know.”

Sadly, Lisa’s relationship with her father wasn’t great either.

“I had nothing to do with my father before his death.”

Stroud’s father Andrew, who married Simone in 1961, died just two years ago in 2012. It’s a well know fact that Stroud, a former firefighter, managed Nina with beatings to keep her in line.

When Simone left him, by simply leaving her wedding ring behind and moving to Barbados, she took Lisa with her. In the island, she had an affair with the married Prime minister Errol Barrow. When their relationship ended and he basically got rid of Simone, Lisa had to deal with the aftermath.

“I got my first job in Barbados. I was 10 or 11, old enough to file papers. I had no option.”

While in the Caribbean, Simone lost control of her business affairs and was fighting the IRS. In response, she moved to Liberia at the invitation of Miriam Makeba.

It was there that Stroud was a her happiest.

“I went to school there and I lived with a surrogate family. But then my mother decided to join me and it went downhill. At 12 I ended up driving around on my own in a Pontiac Catalina running errands. I had to grow up fast.’”

“It Did Affect Me”: Zoe Saldana Says She Was Really Bothered By Attacks Over Nina Simone Biopic

July 3rd, 2014 - By Victoria Uwumarogie
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zoe saldana lands l'oreal


In the span of a month, Zendaya Coleman nabbed the role of Aaliyah in the Lifetime biopic, Aaliyah: Princess of R&B, defended herself against a heavy dose of online criticism, and then bowed out of the project this past weekend. While there is only speculation that the family’s strong opposition to the project might have had something to do with her decision to hit the exit, one can’t help but wonder if it was also the discouragement of many Aaliyah fans and those in the general public that would make the 17-year-old want to bail on a film that could have been major for her career. 

Someone else who has had to deal with backlash from the public when it comes to being cast in a biopic is Zoe Saldana. For the past year and a half, Saldana has been given the side-eye from Nina Simone fans, many of which, thought that her complexion was too light to play the chanteuse and pianist in the biopic, Nina, including Simone’s own daughter and singer India Arie. She tried to keep her head high despite the attacks, and said that the film was made out of love. But now that the film’s release has been put on hold due to a lawsuit from director Cynthia Mort, Saldana told Monarch Magazine that in reality, all of the comments about her, made in opposition to her casting as Simone, really did irk her, but that she tried not to let people’s criticisms keep her from doing a film she really wanted to: 

Nina was a true genius and an iconic artist. It was a dream job for me.

I did a lot of research to prepare for Nina. I took piano lessons, voice lessons, worked with a dialect coach, and I really invested months of just doing research about Nina – her background, her story, her life. My research ranged from reading books about Nina, listening to her music, watching footage of her.

The Nina Simone story needed to be told, and I’m really blessed that I did it. I’m human. I wish I was made of steel and so certain things wouldn’t affect me. So it did affect me but I couldn’t let that deter me from doing what I needed to do. Just like everybody else I feel very strongly about Nina Simone, and that [this] was a story that needed to be told. I do believe that if everybody had more information about how this all came to be, it might help; but then again, I’m not here to get the acceptance of everyone – I’m here to be an artist first. Hopefully people will enjoy the film and I helped shed some light on this amazing iconic woman.

Whenever this movie finally gets released to see the light of day, personally, I’ll be interested in seeing what kind of work Saldana was able to do. But what about you? 

Zendaya As Aaliyah? Zoe As Nina? 15 Controversial Casting Choices

June 20th, 2014 - By Meghan Williams
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When it comes to casting roles some actors seem tailor made for the parts they’re given – think Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles in Ray, Denzel Washington as Alonzo Harris in Training Day and Angela Bassett as Tina Turner in What’s Love Got to Do With It. But every once in a while casting directors make controversial choices that are sometimes a success and sometimes a complete fail. Here are 15 controversial casting choices that raised some eyebrows and really got people talking.

Controversial Casting Choices

Source: WENN

Zendaya Coleman as Aaliyah

Earlier this week, news broke that Disney star Zendaya Coleman had been cast to play Aaliyah in a new Lifetime biopic, and the controversy has already been real… and relentless. Though the 17-year old is a pretty talented singer and dancer, everyone seems to be wondering whether she looks enough like Aaliyah and if her acting chops are even good enough for the role.

And of course the fact that Aaliyah’s family is upset about the movie being created in the first place isn’t helping Zendaya’s cause at all.