I woke up early Wednesday morning on February 22 to a notification from Spotify that read “Celebrate 90 years of Nina Simone!” Being a fan, I instantly clicked on the link as it directed me to a curated playlist of Nina Simone’s best songs.
Eunice Kathleen Waymon, later known as Nina Simone, became one of the most iconic Black female musicians during the 20th century. Simone was accredited for having an eclectic voice and singing in an enriching baritone. Her ability to keep the listener absorbed in her song was not only through her voice but through her powerful musical storytelling. Being able to touch on sensitive topics for the Black community, gave her the traction she desired to become a voice for them. Specializing in various genres with a wealthy background of notable Black musicians such as jazz, folk, classical, piano, and blues, Nina’s music held tremendous cultural weight, eventually inspiring other great musicians.
Nina became involved with the Civil Rights Movement when she forged relationships with several Civil Rights activists such as Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and Muhammad Ali. Simone’s proximity to the community allowed her to engage in meaningful conversations about the racial injustices she and many others were experiencing. However, it was not until the 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing in 1963 that was incited by white supremacists, killing four young Black girls, that she decided to fuel her anger and grief into music. She channeled this anger through her song Mississippi Goddamn, which pioneered her passion for writing and singing songs that vividly depicted the Black experience during this era. The impact of this song was so immense that radio stations banned it from being played as a tactic to restrain Black voices. Nina Simone continued to resist discrimination through music, paving the way for other Black musicians.
Her legacy has nurtured the Black community, giving them, specifically Black women a space in the music industry. Nina Simone’s impact has allowed her to be named the “High Priestess of Soul” inspiring artists like Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill, Alicia Keys, Mary J. Blige, and many more. Nina Simone will continue to be celebrated just as she was when I woke up that morning.