Friday Open Thread |Our Gems Week: Nina Simone

Our Final Gem is Nina Simone.

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She was one of the most extraordinary artists of the twentieth century, an icon of American music. She was the consummate musical storyteller, a griot as she would come to learn, who used her remarkable talent to create a legacy of liberation, empowerment, passion, and love through a magnificent body of works. She earned the moniker ‘High Priestess of Soul’ for she could weave a spell so seductive and hypnotic that the listener lost track of time and space as they became absorbed in the moment. She was who the world would come to know as Nina Simone.

When Nina Simone died on April 21, 2003, she left a timeless treasure trove of musical magic spanning over four decades from her first hit, the 1959 Top 10 classic “I Loves You Porgy,” to “A Single Woman,” the title cut from her one and only 1993 Elektra album. While thirty-three years separate those recordings, the element of honest emotion is the glue that binds the two together – it is that approach to every piece of work that became Nina’s uncompromising musical trademark.

By the end of her life, Nina was enjoying an unprecedented degree of recognition. Her music was enjoyed by the masses due to the CD revolution, discovery on the Internet, and exposure through movies and television. Nina had sold over one million CDs in the last decade of her life, making her a global catalog best-seller.

No one website can fully explore the many nuances and flavors that made up the more than 40 original albums in the Nina Simone library. This site and accompanying radio station contain many of Nina’s finest works. However, we might not have had the chance to witness the breathtaking range of material Nina could cover if she hadn’t taken the path she did.

Born Eunice Kathleen Waymon in Tryon, North Carolina on February 21st, 1933, Nina’s prodigious talent as a musician was evident early on when she started playing piano by ear at the age of three. Her mother, a Methodist minister, and her father, a handyman and preacher himself, couldn’t ignore young Eunice’s God-given gift of music. Raised in the church on the straight and narrow, her parents taught her right from wrong, to carry herself with dignity, and to work hard. She played piano – but didn’t sing – in her mother’s church, displaying remarkable talent early in her life. Able to play virtually anything by ear, she was soon studying classical music with an Englishwoman named Muriel Mazzanovich, who had moved to the small southern town. It was from these humble roots that Eunice developed a lifelong love of Johann Sebastian Bach, Chopin, Brahms, Beethoven and Schubert. This website captures milestones in a career that has had more than its share of peaks and valleys.After graduating valedictorian of her high school class, the community raised money for a scholarship for Eunice to study at Julliard in New York City before applying to the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. Her family had already moved to the City Of Brotherly Love, but Eunice’s hopes for a career as a pioneering African American classical pianist were dashed when the school denied her admission. To the end, she herself would claim that racism was the reason she did not attend. While her original dream was unfulfilled, Eunice ended up with an incredible worldwide career as Nina Simone – almost by default.

To survive, she began teaching music to local students. One fateful day in 1954, looking to supplement her income, Eunice auditioned to sing at the Midtown Bar & Grill on Pacific Avenue in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Word spread about this new singer and pianist who was dipping into the songbooks of Gershwin, Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers, and the like, transforming popular tunes of the day into a unique synthesis of jazz, blues, and classical music. Her rich, deep velvet vocal tones, combined with her mastery of the keyboard, soon attracted club goers up and down the East Coast. In order to hide the fact that she was singing in bars, Eunice’s mother would refer to the practice as “working in the fires of hell”, overnight Eunice Waymon became Nina Simone by taking the nickname “Nina” meaning “little one” in Spanish and “Simone” after the actress Simone Signoret.

At the age of twenty-four, Nina came to the attention of the record industry. After submitting a demo of songs she had recorded during a performance in New Hope, Pennsylvania, she was signed by Syd Nathan, owner of the Ohio-based King Records (home to James Brown), to his Jazz imprint, Bethlehem Records. The boisterous Nathan had insisted on choosing songs for her debut set, but eventually relented and allowed Nina to delve in the repertoire she had been performing at clubs up and down the eastern seaboard. One of Nina’s stated musical influences was Billie Holiday and her inspired reading of “Porgy” (from “Porgy & Bess”) heralded the arrival of a new talent on the national scene. At the same mammoth 13 hour session in 1957, recorded in New York City, Nina also cut “My Baby Just Cares For Me,” previously recorded by Nate King Cole, Count Basie, and Woody Herman. The song was used by Chanel in a perfume commercial in Europe in the 1980’s and it became a massive hit for Nina, a British chart topper at #5, and thus a staple of her repertoire for the rest of her career.

Nina Simone’s stay with Bethlehem Records was short lived and in 1959, after moving to New York City, she was signed by Joyce Selznik, the eastern talent scout for Colpix Records, a division of Columbia Pictures. Months after the release of her debut LP for the label (1959‘s The Amazing Nina Simone), Nina was performing at her first major New York City venue, the mid-Manhattan-located Town Hall. Sensing that her live performances would capture the essential spontaneity of her artistry, Colpix opted to record her September 12, 1959 show. “You Can Have Him,” a glorious torch song previously cut by Peggy Lee and Ella Fitzgerald, was one of the highlights of the evening. The song opened with a dazzling keyboard arpeggio that would become her signature for decades. So momentous was the Town Hall performance that it inspired some of the same musicians, featuring the vocals of Nina’s only daughter, Lisa Simone Kelly, to do a tribute to a sold out audience over forty five years later.

As Nina’s reputation as an engaging live performer grew, it wasn’t long before she was asked to perform at the prestigious Newport Jazz Festival. Accompanied on the June 30th,1960 show by Al Schackman, a guitarist who would go on to become Nina’s longest-running musical colleague, bassist Chris White, and drummer Bobby Hamilton, the dynamic show was recorded by the Colpix. The subsequent release in 1961 of the old blues tune “Trouble In Mind” as a single gave Nina her third charted record.

Her stay with Colpix resulted in some wonderful albums – nine in all – included Nina’s version of Bessie Smith’s blues classic “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out.” Issued as a single in 1960, it became Nina’s second charted Pop and R&B hit and one of two Colpix tracks to achieve such a feat during her five year stint with the label. Other stand out tracks from that era were the soulful song “Cotton Eyed Joe,” the torch tune “The Other Women,” and the Norwegian folk rendition of “Black Is The Colour Of My True Love’s Hair” – all beautiful examples of Nina Simone at her storytelling best, painting a vivid picture with her skill as a lyrical interpreter. During this time with the label, Nina recorded one civil rights song, Oscar Brown Jr.’s “Brown Baby,” which was included on her fifth album for the label, At The Village Gate.

“Critics started to talk about what sort of music I was playing,” writes Nina in her 1991 autobiography I Put A Spell On You, “and tried to find a neat slot to file it away in. It was difficult for them because I was playing popular songs in a classical style with a classical piano technique influenced by cocktail jazz. On top of that I included spirituals and children’s song in my performances, and those sorts of songs were automatically identified with the folk movement. So, saying what sort of music I played gave the critics problems because there was something from everything in there, but it also meant I was appreciated across the board – by jazz, folk, pop and blues fans as well as admirers of classical music.” Clearly Nina Simone was not an artist who could be easily classified.

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UNSPECIFIED - 1968: This studio portrait shows American pianist and jazz singer Nina Simone reclining on the floor circa 1968. Simone, whose deep, raspy voice made her a unique jazz figure and later helped chronicle the civil rights movement, died in her sleep on April 21, 2003 of natural causes after a long illness. She was 70.   (Photo by Getty Images)

UNSPECIFIED – 1968: This studio portrait shows American pianist and jazz singer Nina Simone reclining on the floor circa 1968. Simone, whose deep, raspy voice made her a unique jazz figure and later helped chronicle the civil rights movement, died in her sleep on April 21, 2003 of natural causes after a long illness. She was 70. (Photo by Getty Images)

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42 Responses to Friday Open Thread |Our Gems Week: Nina Simone

  1. rikyrah says:

    I just finished this week’s Doc McStuffins…they have a new baby…awe…..

    And, for anyone watching…Does Grandma know about Doc?

  2. rikyrah says:

    Batman vs. Superman – please leave me some reviews…

    I don’t know whether to spend the money on it.

    • Liza says:

      This is adorable. Perhaps a sign that Bernie is this election’s one true thing, that Bernie is the real deal.

      • I take it as a sign too.

        Sen Sanders: “Now you see, this little bird doesn’t know it ..”
        Little bird is like.. yes I do…I’m coming to you….I pick you.

  3. rikyrah says:

    Bernie MI Dir. Allegedly paid by Hillary PAC
    by Steven D
    Fri Mar 25th, 2016 at 01:57:45 PM EST

    Longer Title: Ryan Hughes, MI and PA Bernie State Director, Accused of Accepting Hillary Super Pac Money
    I have been holding onto this information, but since Niko House has posted a video regarding this allegation, I’ve decided to lay out for you what I know.

    Ryan Hughes was the Sanders campaign’s state director for Michigan, and is now the state director for Bernie’s Pennsylvania campaign, as well. Mark Craig, the founder of a grassroots volunteer group in Michigan that supports Bernie Sanders,, had many dealings with Ryan Hughes after Hughes came to Michigan. Mark Craig also said he was one of the principle organizers for Bernie’s March 2nd rally and speech to thousands of people at the Breslin Center on the campus of Michigan State University. His grassroots organization was started in 2015, long before Ryan Hughes showed up as the paid director for Bernie’s campaign in Michigan.

    Mr. Craig stated to me that knows a a senior employee who works for Priorities USA Action (“Priorities USA”), a Hillary Super Pac. In late February, after Craig casually mentioned to her that Ryan Hughes was running the Sanders’ campaign, that person told him Hughes was receiving direct payments from Priorities USA, all while Ryan Hughes worked as the Sanders’ campaign’s state director for Michigan, along with several other paid Sanders’ Michigan staffers.

  4. rikyrah says:

    There Is No Way On Earth Five Human Women Sexed Ted Cruz
    Robyn Pennacchia @robynelyse | March 25, 2016 – 10:09 am

    • rikyrah says:


      From KennyM at POU:


      Ahmed: Nimah I’m home!
      Nimah: …..
      Ahmed: Hey babe what’s wrong?
      Nimah: Have you seen the news today?
      Ahmed: No..
      Nimah: They got the finance minister so you know what that means..
      Ahmed: Okay honey listen..
      Nimah: No you listen! You know Mr. Hamid don’t play about his rent. I’m tired of you and this jihad BS! You have a degree Ahmed! Get a job!
      Ahmed: But..
      Nimah: GET A JOB! *leaves the room*
      Ahmed: Damn you Obama.. You tangoing MF you

  5. rikyrah says:

    The story of how Nike lost Stephen Curry is unbelievable
    March 24, 2016 11:26 am

    Stephen Curry’s signature Under Armour shoe is one of the top selling basketball shoes in the world, and his rise to superstardom could prove vital in Under Armour’s success as a company that makes basketball shoes.

    How did Curry end up at Under Armour and not at perennial apparel and footwear powerhouse Nike? Curry started his career at Nike, but left in 2013 to join Under Armour. Apparently the decision came down to a terrible — and what I’m sure will become infamous — pitch meeting from Nike.

    From ESPN:
    The pitch meeting, according to Steph’s father Dell, who was present, kicked off with one Nike official accidentally addressing Stephen as “Steph-on,” the moniker, of course, of Steve Urkel’s alter ego in Family Matters. “I heard some people pronounce his name wrong before,” says Dell Curry. “I wasn’t surprised. I was surprised that I didn’t get a correction.”

    It got worse from there. A PowerPoint slide featured Kevin Durant’s name, presumably left on by accident, presumably residue from repurposed materials. “I stopped paying attention after that,” Dell says. Though Dell resolved to “keep a poker face,” throughout the entirety of the pitch, the decision to leave Nike was in the works.

    Wow. Granted, in 2013, no one knew Curry would be the person he is today, but man. That’s a bad meeting. You don’t want to lose a player like that.

  6. rikyrah says:

    FRIDAY, MAR 25, 2016 07:00 AM CDT
    This is Ted Cruz’s last stand: Why the Wisconsin primary could be his final chance
    If Cruz wants to maintain a credible shot at unseating Trump at the convention, he probably needs to win next week

    So far, Donald Trump has won 20 primaries and caucuses. Nobody who has won so many has ever been denied the nomination in either party. If it were anyone but him, the political professionals would pretty much be going through the motions by now, continuing to wage perfunctory primary campaigns but beginning to ready themselves for the the next phase of the campaign against the Democrats. But because Donald Trump is the presumptive nominee the party is still flailing about, trying to figure out a way to wake up from their nightmare.

    Right now, all eyes are on Wisconsin which votes on April 5th. The conventional wisdom says Ted Cruz has to win there in order to even sustain the argument that he might be worthy of taking the nomination on the second ballot at the convention if Trump comes up short. This is something of a desperate gamble, but it’s all they’ve got.

    Yesterday, Governor Scott Walker said he planned to announce an endorsement “after Easter” and admitted that it will either be Ted Cruz or John Kasich. The smart money’s on Cruz, as members of the establishment are all already swallowing their bile to get behind him as much as it pains them to do so.

    This in-depth report from the Washington Post’s Dave Weigel calls Wisconsin “the Masada of the Stop Trump movement” with millions of advertising dollars pouring into the state and the highly influential local right-wing talk radio hosts all pushing hard against Trump. He quotes WTMJ’s Charlie Sykes saying, “the GOP’s current dumpster fire was set and largely fueled by some national talk show hosts who have decided that their infatuation with Donald Trump overrode their commitment to conservative principles.” (And yet another fault line in the conservative movement breaks open …)

  7. #GoodFriday
    Down the Vía Dolorosa called the Way of Suffering
    Like a lamb came the Messiah, Christ the King….

  8. rikyrah says:

    THURSDAY, MAR 24, 2016 03:51 PM CDT
    Whoopi Goldberg deserves a medal: Watch her go ballistic on Ben Carson for backing Donald Trump on “The View”
    Carson received a less-than-warm welcome on the show, as hosts pressed him to answer for Trump endorsement VIDEO

    Former-pediatric neurosurgeon and current Trump-stumper Dr. Ben Carson received a probably-unexpectedly hostile welcome on “The View” Thursday morning.

    Asked point-blank by host Whoopi Goldberg why he chose to endorse Trump, Carson attempted a joke, saying that when he dropped out of the presidential race, “my first choice went with me.”


    inRead invented by Teads
    “I was gonna remain neutral,” he continued once the audience and hosts caught up to him. “But then I realized that … the political establishment was aligning to protect their turf. And they don’t like the idea of people who are not beholding to them, and who cannot be controlled coming into Washington, D.C.”

    Goldberg cut through Carson’s bullshit, pressing him to explain his endorsement of “a man who has bashed women, made countless racist remarks.”

    “You’re Ben Carson,” she added. “Why would you align yourself with that?”

    “There’s no perfect person,” Carson responded before touting Trump’s “insisting” Mar-a-Lago admit “Blacks and Jews” at a time when such integration was a rarity among swanky private clubs.

    “I always say that one of the ways that you measure a person is looking at their children,” he continued, essentially saying Trump’s kids are well-behaved relative to other rich kids. “And how do their children act.”

  9. rikyrah says:

    OF COURSE, it was by design.

    THURSDAY, MAR 24, 2016 12:37 PM CDT

    What happened in Arizona wasn’t an accident: When states make voting impossible, it’s for a very clear reason

    Arizona residents were forced to wait hours on line in order to vote in this week’s primary. Some were turned away. VIDEO


    Once again, an American election was unnecessarily thwarted by long lines and not enough ballots. To say there’s no excuse for such nonsense, especially in a nation that prides itself on its representative democracy and, yes, its exceptionalism, is understating the problem. This time around, it happened during the Arizona primary where countless voters were forced to stand in lines for hours, while others were told they weren’t registered in the first place.

    In Maricopa County alone, election officials infuriatingly reduced the number of polling places by 70 percent. Such a drastic reduction meant there was only one polling place per 21,000 residents of the highly populated Phoenix metroplex. Officials including County Recorder Helen Purcell (a Republican) said the cutbacks were due to budgetary concerns. Uh-huh. Of course, I doubt members of either party who were forced to wait in five-hour lines would’ve minded the additional expense to facilitate our most basic right as Americans. Elsewhere, independent voters who switched their registration to the Democratic Party were allegedly told they hadn’t registered at all, forcing them to sit out the closed primary.

  10. rikyrah says:

    Our President stays winning

  11. rikyrah says:

    You expected more from those clowns?

    FRIDAY, MAR 25, 2016 05:00 AM CDT

    “Morning Joe” childishness: The show’s inane demand that President Obama treat Americans like children

    Obama’s response to the terrorist attack in Brussels was measured and serious. Of course, “Morning Joe” hated it


    Earlier this week, a series of coordinated terror bombings in Brussels, which ISIS claims it planned, left 34 human beings (including three perpetrators) dead. The terrorists bombed the city’s airport and one of its metro stations. Taken altogether, the real target of the attack was clear. It was the European project itself; and the modern cosmopolitanism that, to many, it represents.

    At the risk of stating the obvious: These are serious issues. And they deserve a serious response. President Barack Obama, who was on a diplomatic trip in Cuba and elsewhere in South America, provided that serious response. And this made some of the media’s self-designated stewards of American empire very, very mad.

    To be fair, their anger stemmed from a profoundly different assessment of Obama’s behavior than the one I just gave you. Their criticism had little to do with Obama’s official statement, which promised to “stand in solidarity” with Brussels; it was the other things that Obama did — and that he didn’t do — that had them so upset.

    What were his transgressions? He didn’t respond to the attack by dropping his plans and zooming in Air Force One to Europe or Washington. He stuck to his plans — which included attending a symbolically important baseball match in Cuba, as well as a state dinner in Argentina, which featured dancing — instead.

  12. rikyrah says:

    Posted without comment.

    From BJ

    So the National Enquirer claims Ted Cruz had immoral congress with at least five women who are not his wife (which is a nasty enough image over breakfast, for sure). Some people say the story was planted by Donald Trump, and even claim that one of those women might just be Donald Trump’s current campaign spokesperson.

  13. rikyrah says:

    Good Morning, Everyone :)

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