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Princess Noire

The Tumultuous Reign of Nina Simone

Nadine Cohodas

Publication Year: 2002

This biography tells the story of legendary jazz singer Nina Simone (1933-2003). Born in Tryon, NC, as Eunice Kathleen Waymon, Simone's childhood challenges as the youngest of seven children were significant, but not unique as a daughter of African American parents in the Depression-era South. Her musical gifts were extraordinary, however; largely self-trained, she went on to become one of the most prominent jazz peformers of the mid-twentieth century. Her music crossed into blues, gospel, Classical, and other genres as well. Particularly after recording Mississippi Goddamn as a response to the murder of Medgar Evers, she also became closely linked to the Civil Rights Movement, forging close relationships with other African American activists, writers, and artists of the period. But mental and physical illness took their toll, and her performances and public appearances became increasingly erratic from the late 1970s until her death. Nevertheless, she is widely regarded as one of the most distinctive voices of American music in the twentieth century, and this biography of her exists as the most comprehensive treatment of her life and music--and their significance.

Published by: The University of North Carolina Press

Further Reading, Title Page, Copyright, Frontispiece

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pp. i-iv

Contents

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pp. v-vi

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Prologue

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pp. 3-4

It was more a path emerging than a promise fulfilled that put Nina Simone on a makeshift stage in Montgomery, Alabama, on a sodden March night in 1965. She wanted to sing for the bedraggled men and women who had trekked three days from Selma to...

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1. Called For and Delivered ~ June 1898–February 1933

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pp. 5-15

The gifts that would turn Eunice Waymon into Nina Simone were apparent by the time she was three, though the passions, the mood swings, and the ferocious intensity that marked her adult life were buried for years under her talent. She was born on...

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2. We Knew She Was a Genius ~ March 1933–August 1941

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pp. 16-28

John Irvin sang in a St. Luke quartet and played guitar with his father; Lucille, Carrol, Harold, and Dorothy sang in the church choir, but even before their baby sister could walk, they realized she had more musical talent than all of them. “When she was eight...

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3. Miss Mazzy ~ September 1941–August 1947

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pp. 29-38

It was Eunice’s good fortune that Kate Waymon regularly cleaned house for Katherine Miller, a widow who lived in Gillette Woods, the affluent Tryon neighborhood that meandered from the far west side of town right up to the South Carolina border. The...

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4. We Have Launched, Where Shall We Anchor? ~ September 1947–May 1950

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pp. 39-47

Eunice idolized her older sister Lucille, who seemed more like her mother than Kate did. Kate was working twelve- and fourteen- hour days cleaning houses on top of her church duties, so it fell to Lucille to teach Eunice how to dress and wear her...

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5. Prelude to a Fugue ~ June 1950–May 1954

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pp. 48-59

Eunice’s first trip to New York City, when she was twelve, had scarcely prepared her for life as a Juilliard student. It was an eight- week summer vacation organized around family, with everyone—Kate, Eunice, Dorothy, and the babies, Frances and...

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6. The Arrival of Nina Simone ~ June 1954–June 1956

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pp. 60-70

It was through her students that Eunice got to Atlantic City, New Jersey, the beachfront resort town about an hour’s drive from Philadelphia that was famous for three things: the annual Miss America pageant, which had been held at the convention hall since...

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7. Little Girl Blue ~ July 1956–December 1958

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pp. 71-79

Nina’s relationship with Edney had been, for all its intensity, a meeting of the heart and mind, stopping short of the physical intimacy she longed for. In the months after she left Tryon, Nina found little social life of any sort, although there was...

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8. A Fast Rising Star ~ 1959

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pp. 80-90

After staying with friends temporarily in Greenwich Village, Nina and Don found their own place on Central Park West at 101st Street, about a mile south of Harlem. The apartment was on the top floor of a fifteen- story building typical of the neighborhood:...

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9. Simone-ized ~ 1960

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pp. 91-106

In the middle of January, Colpix put out another single from the July 1959 sessions, “The Other Woman” backed with “It Might as Well Be Spring,” a sign the label intended to make Nina one of its stars. The record was a teaser for the anticipated release of two...

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10. You Can’t Let Them Humiliate You ~ January 1961–December 13, 1961

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pp. 107-120

Nina’s weeklong booking at the Apollo Theater in February was her second at the storied venue. She had appeared there in the spring of 1959 but at the bottom of a jazz bill, playing solo piano for $350. This time Nina, with her trio, was the headliner,...

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11. Respect ~ December 14, 1961–December 1962

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pp. 121-132

Langston Hughes brought Nina into the circle of black talent that headed to Lagos December 13. Their friendship had blossomed during the 1960 Newport festival, and ever since the two had kept in touch. Langston periodically sent Nina books along...

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12. Mississippi Goddam ~ 1963

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pp. 133-147

Nina’s thirtieth birthday fell in the middle of a two- week engagement at Chicago’s Sutherland Hotel. “I’m really quite content,” she told the Chicago Defender in one of two feature stories promoting the date. “I have a wonderful husband and...

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13. Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood ~ 1964

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pp. 148-162

Nina’s appearance in Summit, New Jersey, on January 22 to headline a benefit for the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) further confirmed that Andy was right. She did have her music. “I played on stage for a reason, and when I walked...

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14. My Skin Is Black ~ 1965

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pp. 163-181

When Nina returned to the studio early in the new year, Andy asked Bernard Gotfryd, the Newsweek photographer, to shoot the session. He found an engaged performer talking over arrangements with Horace Ott, chatting with the...

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15. Images ~ 1966

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pp. 182-194

Andy’s negotiations with CORE had borne fruit. He and the organization agreed that Nina would do six benefit concerts in the Northeast starting January 21, 1966, in Pittsburgh and concluding January 28 in New Rochelle, New York. Something...

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16. My Only Groove Is Moods ~ 1967

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pp. 195-205

Andy and Nina signed with RCA at the end of 1966. It was a step up to one of the majors that already had demonstrated a commitment to black artists, among them Harry Belafonte and Nina’s good friend Miriam Makeba. Andy had also formed...

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17. Black Gold ~ 1968

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pp. 206-221

Nina’s return to Carnegie Hall January 6 was as much coronation as concert. Undeterred by a snowstorm and blustery winds, her fans filled every available seat, lined the balconies, and even spilled out onto the stage where space permitted...

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18. To Be Young, Gifted and Black ~ 1969

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pp. 222-237

Nina’s latest album, released early in February, featured only her and her piano. The title was direct: Nina Simone and Piano! The jacket copy emphasized that Nina had done everything at the RCA sessions three months earlier, including...

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19. I Have Become More Militant ~ 1970

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pp. 238-249

Nina and Andy split up early in 1970. On February 14 Amsterdam News columnist Jesse H. Walker reported in his Theatricals column (usually at least a week behind events) that the couple had separated “and a divorce may be in the works.” A...

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20. Definite Vibrations of Pride ~ 1971

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pp. 250-264

On a trip to Holland a few years earlier, Nina had befriended a young Dutch man, Gerrit DeBruin, perhaps impressed by the ingenuity he showed in getting backstage to meet her. He had offered to help some musicians who were playing the same...

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21. This Ain’t No Geraldine Up Here ~ 1972

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pp. 265-274

Washington, D.C.’s Constitution Hall was nearly filled to its 3,800- seat capacity February 12 for Nina’s first perfor - mance in the city in several years. It was not lost on her that three decades earlier the Daughters of the American Revolution...

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22. Where My Soul Has Gone ~ 1973–1976

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pp. 275-285

Despite her disparaging comments now and then about their marriage, Nina and Andy maintained a relationship beyond their common interest in Lisa. She even expressed her gratitude to him on the jacket of Emergency Ward “for encouragement...

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23. I Am Not of This Planet ~ 1977–1978

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pp. 286-300

Nina’s move to Switzerland complicated Lisa’s life. “Everything was fine as long as she wasn’t around,” Lisa recalled, “and then she decided to come and turn my world upside down.” Lisa resolved to visit her father and find out once and for all...

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24. Loving Me Is Not Enough ~ 1979–1981

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pp. 301-313

Nina returned to the Village Gate February 22 and kept the opening night audience waiting an hour. She groused in her dressing room about the financial arrangement she had with owner Art D’Lugoff and a crowd not big enough to suit her. She...

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25. Fodder on Her Wings ~ 1982–1988

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pp. 314-335

The day I discovered Jacques Brel was one of the most exciting days of my whole life,” Nina wrote in her memoir. “So Paris seemed to make sense.” She knew the city had a large African community with residents from several countries, “so I would be...

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26. Nina’s Back . . . Again ~ 1989–1992

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pp. 336-347

Al called Chris White, Nina’s former bass player, in the spring of 1989 and asked him to join Nina in Europe. Chris was surprised. Based on the last time he saw her, he didn’t think she was up to performing. They had been at a party in Newark at the...

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27. A Single Woman ~ 1993–1999

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pp. 348-361

Michael Alago, who worked for Elektra Records, had been a fan since he was a teenager. During one of Nina’s New York appearances, he stopped in at her sound check to introduce himself. He thought she knew he was coming, but she...

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28. The Final Curtain ~ 2000–2003

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pp. 362-374

By the middle of 2000, Nina had changed her life around again. She moved to Carry- le- Rouet, a seaside town west of Marseilles and near Sausset- les- Pins. “You love the water,” Clifton told her. “Why not live like a star?” Not only was Carry much...

Notes

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pp. 375-416

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Nina Simone, Briefly, on CD/DVD

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pp. 417-

Virtually all of Nina Simone’s studio recordings, from her first with Bethlehem to her last with Elektra, are available on CD. The earliest recorded Nina is Little Girl Blue (Neon NE 3541). Her Colpix albums have also been reissued, and among the best is Nina Simone at Town Hall (COL CD 6208), which captures...

Bibliography

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pp. 419-424

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Acknowledgments

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pp. 425-428

A host of people deserve thanks for their help in this years- long project. First among them are Peter Guralnick and Charlie McGovern. Peter encouraged me to write about Nina Simone, and throughout he has offered boundless support and wisdom, not only about the task of writing but about life, too...

Index

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pp. 429-450

A Note About the Author, Publication Information

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pp. 451-


E-ISBN-13: 9781469602240
E-ISBN-10: 1469602245
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807872437
Print-ISBN-10: 0807872431

Page Count: 464
Illustrations: 2 line drawings, 1 map
Publication Year: 2002