Eunice Kathleen Waymon (February 21, 1933 – April 21, 2003), also known by her stage name Nina Simone (/ˈniːnə sɨˈmoʊn/), was an American singer, songwriter, pianist, arranger, and civil rights activist widely associated with jazz music. Simone aspired to become a classical pianist while working in a broad range of styles including classical, jazz, blues, soul, folk, R&B, gospel, and pop.
Born the sixth child of a preacher's family in North Carolina, Nina's prodigious musical talent encouraged her ambition to become the first black concert pianist, but the realities of poverty and racial prejudice forced her to reconsider. Her musical path changed direction after she was turned down for full scholarship at a prestigious music institute - the Curtis Institute of Philadelphia. She began playing in a small club in Phildelphia to fund her continuing musical education to become a classical pianist, and was required to sing. She was approached for a recording by Bethlehem Records, and "I love you Porgy" became a smash hit in America in 1958.. Over her career, Simone recorded over 40 albums, mostly between 1958 — when she made her debut with Little Girl Blue — and 1974.
Her original style arose from a fusion of gospel and pop songs with classical music, in particular her first inspiration, classical composer Bach, and accompanied with her expressive jazz-like singing in characteristic low tenor. She injected as much of her classical background into her music as possible to give it more depth and quality, and as she felt that pop music was inferior. Also, her intuitive grasp on the audience/performer relationship was gained from a unique background of playing piano accompaniment for church revivals and sermons regularly from the early age of six years.
After twenty years of performing, she became involved in the civil rights movement and the direction of her life shifted once more. Simone's music was highly influential in the fight black people faced for equal rights at this time in America, regardless of race. Her powerful music was a source of inspiration and enjoyment for her generation, and continues to be for those that follow.