NINA SIMONE was born Eunice Kathleen Waymon in Tryon, North Carolina on February 21, 1933 and was one of the most gifted and eclectic vocalists of her generation. Nina Simone was a singer, pianist, and songwriter who bent genres to her will rather than allowing herself to be confined by their boundaries. Her music covered Jazz, Blues, Soul, Classical, R&B, Pop, Gospel, and world music with passion, emotional honesty, and a strong grasp of technique as the constant of her musical career. She made over 40 albums during her career!

While always conscious of the ongoing struggle for civil rights, Simone often avoided explicit political messages in her material; but as the fight for racial equality became a more pressing issue in America, Simone began addressing issues of social justice in her music. Nina Simone spoke at and took part in many civil rights marches advocating violent revolution, and hoped that African Americans, via armed combat, could form a separate state.

My personal favorite song is “Why? The King of Love is Dead”, which is a tribute to the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Nina Simone wrote and performed this song just 3 days after Dr. King’s assassination in 1968. Other songs such as “Mississippi Goddam” addressed the murder of Medgar Evars, and the bombing of a church in Alabama which killed 4 young girls. “Old Jim Crow” addressed Jim Crow laws in the South. You can listen to this great woman’s soulful voice via YouTube and Pandora.

Nina Simone
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In more recent history, Nina Simone’s music can be heard in the movie “Beyond the Lights” as Noni makes mention to her several times and even sang her song, “Black Bird.” Nina Simone is referenced as a vital celebrity supporter of Martin Luther King, Jr. in the movie “Selma” which chronicled the events leading up to Bloody Sunday and the Voter’s Rights movement initiated in Selma, Alabama and the march to Montgomery, Al.

To make this hair related, Nina Simone always wore her hair in its natural state (afros and braids) and often spoke of her pride of being a Black Woman. She stressed the importance of Black people staying true to their roots (especially our natural appearances). Nina Simone died in her sleep after suffering from breast cancer on April 21, 2003.

 

WHY? THE KING OF LOVE IS DEAD

Once upon this planet earth,
Lived a man of humble birth,
Preaching love and freedom for his fellow man,

He was dreaming of a day,
Peace would come to earth to stay,
And he spread this message all across the land.

Turn the other cheek he’d plead,
Love thy neighbor was his creed,
Pain humiliation death, he did not dread

With his Bible at his side,
From his foes he did not hide,
It’s hard to think that this great man is dead. (Oh yes)

Will the murders never cease,
Are thy men or are they beasts?
What do they ever hope, ever hope to gain?

Will my country fall, stand or fall?
Is it too late for us all?
And did Martin Luther King just die in vain?

‘Cause he’d seen the mountain top,
And he knew he could not stop,
Always living with the threat of death ahead.

Folks you’d better stop and think
‘Cause we’re heading for the brink.
What will happen now that he is dead?

He was for equality,
For all people you and me,
Full of love and good will, hate was not his way.

He was not a violent man.
Tell me folks if you can,
Just why, why was he shot down the other day?

Well see he’d seen, the mountain top.
And he knew he could not stop,
Always living with the threat of death ahead.

Folks you’d better stop and think and feel again,
For we’re heading for the brink.
What’s gonna happen now that the king of love is dead?

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