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Simone, Nina (b. Eunice Kathleen Waymon)(1933– ) jazz singer, pianist, composer; born in Tryon, N.C. After studying piano and teaching music as a teenager, she attended Juilliard for a year; she failed to gain admission to Curtis Institute (Philadelphia), she believed, on account of her race. She turned to playing the piano and singing in Atlanta, Ga., nightclubs, first using the name "Nina Simone" in 1954, and first won national acclaim with her 1959 recording of Gershwin's "I Loves You, Porgy." She toured the United States and Europe in the 1960s; by this time she had taken up the cause of civil rights and she began to write and perform protest songs such as "To Be Young, Gifted and Black" and "Four Women." In the early 1970s, she expatriated herself, angrily denouncing the treatment of African-Americans in the U.S.A. and eventually settled in the south of France. For many years she was distracted by quarrels with agents, recording companies, and the Internal Revenue Service over money matters, and her occasional performances in the U.S.A. were unevenly given and received. By the late 1980s, however, she seemed to mellow somewhat and she returned to the U.S.A. in 1993 to promote a new album, A Woman Alone, and her autobiography, I Put a Spell on You (1992). Called the "highpriestess of soul," she remains distinctive for her blending of jazz, pop, and soul with emotional intensity and a classical amplitude.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.