Rich with inexplicable soul, Nina Simone’s voice is unmistakable and capable of evoking a kaliedoscope of emotions.
A singer who combined classical, blues and jazz styles, Nina came into this world in February 1933 as Eunice Waymon, the sixth of seven children born into a poor family in Tyron, North Carolina. By the age of four, she was already playing the piano, her talents proving large enough for the people around her to take notice and fund most of her education.
Throughout her career, Nina built a reputation as an artist of diversity and independence. While she covered many traditional and religious songs, she wrote several of her own compositions, these songs often providing a vehicle for her strong opinions and emotions as a singer in the Civil Rights Movement.
After nearly a half-century of performing Nina passed away at her home in France in April of 2003, leaving behind a beautiful collection of songs that will forever resonate in the music world.
The selections I’ve featured are just a small handful of some of my favorites, as Nina has sung too many songs I adore.
‘Feelin’ Good’ is the quintessential Nina song, powerful in its simplicity. Accompanied by a smooth array of horns, stings and piano. It was most recently used in the promos for HBO’s Six Feet Under series.
Another classic is 1964’s ‘Black Is The Color Of My True Love’s Hair,’ a soft and sweet song of love and longing with Nina’s stirring voice being its focus while ‘Love Me Or Leave Me’ is notably more up-tempo, served up in a classic lounge style.
Lastly, we have remixer and producer Joe Claussell boldly modernizing ‘Feelin’ Good,’ giving it a lush and sexy polish and making it perfect chill music. While it seems strange and unnecessary to electronically manipulate Nina’s voice, the song retains its overall mood and can be found on 2002’s Verve Remixed which also boasts remixes of Billie Holiday among others.
Nearly all of Nina’s catalog has been distributed on various compilations making most of her best songs widely available.