Eunice Kathleen Waymon (February 21, 1933 – April 21, 2003), better known by her stage name Nina Simone (/ˈniːnə sɨˈmoʊn/), was an American singer, songwriter, pianist, arranger, and civil rights activist. Although she disliked being categorized, Simone is most associated with jazz music. Simone originally aspired to become a classical pianist, but her work covers an eclectic variety of musical styles that include classical, jazz, blues, soul, folk, R&B, gospel, and pop. Her vocal style is characterized by intense passion, a loose vibrato, and a slightly androgynous timbre, in part due to her unusually low vocal range which veered between the alto and tenor ranges (occasionally even reaching baritone lows). Also known as The High Priestess of Soul, she paid great attention to the musical expression of emotions. Within one album or concert she could fluctuate between exuberant happiness and tragic melancholy. These fluctuations also characterized her own personality and personal life, amplified by bipolar disorder with which she was diagnosed in the mid-1960s, something not widely known until after her death in 2003, though she wrote of it openly in her autobiography published in 1992. According to Nadine Cohodas, Simone’s biographer, Ms. Simone was first diagnosed with multiple personality disorder and later with schizophrenia.
Simone recorded over 40 live and studio albums, the greatest body of her work released between 1958 (when she made her debut with Little Girl Blue) and 1974. Her most well known songs include “My Baby Just Cares for Me“, “I Put a Spell on You“, “Four Women“, “I Loves You Porgy“, “Feeling Good“, “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood“, “Sinnerman“, “To Be Young, Gifted and Black“, “Mississippi Goddam“, “Ain’t Got No, I Got Life,” “I Want a Little Sugar in My Bowl”, and “Love Me or Leave Me”.
Her music and message made a strong and lasting impact on culture, illustrated by the numerous contemporary artists who cite her as an important influence (see Legacy and influence). Several hip hop musicians and other modern artists sample and remix Simone’s rhythms and beats on their tracks. In particular, Talib Kweli and Mos Def routinely pay tribute to her outstanding and soulful musical style. Many of her songs are featured on motion picture soundtracks, as well as in video games, commercials, and TV series.
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