Nineteen years ago, the world lost a woman of immense musical talent, global impact and social activism.
Known by the masses as Nina Simone, Eunice Kathleen Waymon’s unbridled passion and soul as a performer and skilled masterfulness as a singer and classically trained pianist only skim the surface of why her ongoing relevance and status as a legend is solidified.
Revered as “The High Priestess Of Soul,” Simone’s spell-bounding self-written works and renditions continue to mystify listeners with their simultaneously captivating nature and often liberating message.
Simone made Black people feel seen through her music and activism as she shared and represented our stories.
Simone’s work still serves as testaments to some of the struggles we still face today.
In honor of the anniversary of her death on April 21, 2003, get engulfed by Simone’s storytelling, empowerment and activism by listening to five of her most well-known hits down below.
Originally written by Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse in 1964 for the musical The Roar of the Greasepaint – The Smell of the Crowd, Simone’s rendition is by far the most popular and widespread version of this classic.
The song was featured on the songstress’ 1965 album, I Put Spell On You.
Although her vocals on the song remain unmatched, other artists who’ve covered “Feeling Good” include Lauryn Hill, Jennifer Hudson, Sammy Davis Jr. and Chlöe Bailey.
In this song, Simone musically paints a picture of how the legacy of slavery has impacted the unique plights of four different Black women: Aunt Sarah, Saffronia, Sweet Thing and Peaches.
The song highlights the intersection where its subjects see themselves and how society sees them — based on their physical attributes, backgrounds and status.
It was released off her 1966 album Wild is the Wild.
In the rendition above, Simone explained the inspiration for “Mississippi Goddam” followed the killings of Addie Mae Collins, Carol Denise McNair, Carole Rosamond Robertson and Cynthia Dionne Wesley — the four Black girls who were killed by a bomb that targeted the large Black congregation at 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963.
The song is also attached to the racially motivated murders of Emmett Till and Medgar Evers, both of which occurred in Mississippi.
Simone first performed and recorded in 1964 at Carnegie Hall.
“Mississippi Goddam” is regarded as one of Simone’s contributions to the Civil Rights Movement.
“I Put A Spell On You”
This is one of Simone’s most beloved classics.
The songstress’ 1965 title track completely differed from the original version Jalacy “Screamin Jay” Hawkins” released ten years prior.
“Young, Gifted and Black”
Simone wrote this song as a tribute to her friend, playwright Lorraine Hansberry.
It’s an encouraging and empowering anthem for Black youth to remind them:
“There’s a world waiting for you,
Yours is the quest that’s just begun.”
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