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Last Updated: Monday, 21 April, 2003, 20:18 GMT 21:18 UK
Obituary: Nina Simone
Nina Simone
"My music is black classical music"
Nina Simone was one of the last divas of jazz and was considered one of the finest songwriters and musicians of her day.

Born Eunice Wayman in 1933, her ambition was to become America's first black concert pianist. She won a place at New York's famous Juilliard School but was unable to complete her studies due to lack of funds.

Simone's consequent style as a club singer was a mix of folk, gospel, classical, blues and soul, but she refused to call it jazz.

"Jazz is a white term to define black people. My music is black classical music," she said.

At this point the pianist Eunice Wayman became the blues legend Nina Simone.

Nina Simone
Simone was born Eunice Wayman in 1933
In 1959 she released her first single, Gershwin's I Love You Porgy. It was an instant hit and was soon followed by the famed My Baby Just Cares For Me.

The song was re-released some 30 years later, bringing her to a new generation of listeners, and it became one of the most listened to songs of the 20th Century.

Simone continued to release a series of successful albums, including Wild is the Wind, I Put A Spell On You and Nina Simone Sings The Blues.

However, such a satisfying career was not mirrored in her life off stage, which was a mixture of revolution and betrayal.

Civil rights campaigner

At the height of her fame she was closely associated with the black civil rights movement, connected with both the radical black playwright Lorraine Hansberry and the controversial Malcolm X.

"I was on the side of Malcolm, there's no doubt about that," she later reflected.

She proved her point by releasing her song Mississippi Goddamn after the murder of black activist Medgar Evers in Mississippi 1963.

Nina Simone
In her later years Simone became a difficult interviewee
Her years of campaigning finally took their toll and in 1971 the volatile singer, nearing nervous exhaustion, decided to leave the States for good.

During the same year she also divorced her second husband of 10 years, Andrew Benjamin Stroud.

Stroud acted as her business partner and personal manager while swindling her out of $250,000 (173,000) before the marriage ended.

In her later years the Simone resided in the south of France. Resolutely private, she became a difficult interviewee, often displaying an irrational temper and refusing to turn up for engagements.

In 1995 she shot and wounded her neighbour's son because the youth's laughter had interrupted her concentration. She also fired a shot at a record company executive whom she accused of underpaying her royalties.

There is no doubt that one of jazz's greatest talents will go down in history as much for her tumultuous life as for her musical skills.

On reviewing her own life, Simone reflected: "I lost four children in miscarriages and there has been a lot of unhappiness. But there has been an equal amount of happiness."




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