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Thursday, March 25, 1999 Published at 09:56 GMT


Putting music first

Tim Sebastian talks to Nina Simone

Jazz legend Nina Simone has admitted she once pulled a gun on a record company boss who refused to pay her royalties.

Nina Simone: "I followed him to a restaurant and I tried to kill him"
The singer, famous for songs like I Put A Spell On You and My Baby Just Cares for Me, told BBC World's HARDtalk she often had problems getting paid for her work. But she once went to extreme lengths to make a record company pay up.

"There was a record company that stole my albums and didn't pay me and they came to Switzerland and I said, 'Where's my money?' and they said, 'We're not going to give you any money,' and I said, 'Oh yes, you are.'

[ image: Nina Simone: Determined to get paid]
Nina Simone: Determined to get paid
"And I got a gun, it was a gun, it wasn't a knife, and I followed him to a restaurant and I tried to kill him. I missed him and I went back to America," she said.

The incident happened about 14 years ago and since then Nina Simone has found a lawyer and uses more conventional means to do business.

But she is still not a woman to mess with and claims the FBI have a file on her over her activist links with civil rights leader Martin Luther King, assassinated in 1968.

She told HARDtalk's Tim Sebastian she longs to find a husband, but music has always been her first passion. She has been married twice and said, "'The music got in the way".

And she admitted men were often intimidated by her.

"I refuse to cook or to clean," she said. "They've got to take me as I am and recognise I'm a star as well as a woman.

"And they have to deal with the two."

'Racist' America

Nina Simone first became famous in the sixties, but made a come-back in the eighties and remains popular worldwide. She spoke to HARDtalk while touring the UK.

Nina Simone on racism: "It's in the very fabric of American society"
She was born in North Carolina but left America in 1972, blaming racism. She is now settled in France and has vowed never to move back to the USA.

"No way I am ever going to go back there and live," she said. "You get racism crossing the street, it's in the very fabric of American society."

Racism has been a theme throughout Nina Simone's singing career ever since she first experienced prejudice at a piano recital at the age of 12. She trained as classical pianist and wanted to be the first black concert pianist but instead became known for her protest songs and jazz and blues hits.

Nina Simone on protest songs: "It helps to change the world"
"As a political weapon it has helped me for 30 years defend the rights of American blacks and third world people all over the world, to defend them with protest songs.

"To move the audience to make them conscious of what has been done to my people around the world," she said.

Nina Simone said she likes to be in control of her audience and revealed her number one rule when on stage.

"I have to be composed, I have to be poised, I have to remember what my first piano teacher told me: 'You do not touch that piano until you are ready and until they are ready to listen to you.

"You just make them wait," she said.

And to hear what Nina Simone has to say in full, watch HARDtalk at the times shown below.

BBC World (times shown in GMT)
March 25 1530 and 1930
March 26 0730 and 0930

News 24 (times shown in GMT)
March 25 2030
March 26 0330

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