This Day in Black History: April 21, 2003

Nina Simone, noted singer, songwriter and pianist, died in France.

Posted: 04/21/2014 08:00 AM EDT
Nina Simone

A highly versatile musician known for her distinctive deep singing voice, her piano virtuosity and her beguiling compositions, Nina Simone was a classically trained artist who would eventually become international known for her skills in a number of genres.

Known as "the High Priestess of Soul," she was born in 1933 as Eunice Kathleen Waymon in Tryon, North Carolina, and went on to study at the Juilliard School in New York City. Simone’s musical style was influenced by her classical training but reached into gospel, pop and jazz.

In the early 1960s, she became involved in the civil rights movement, which became a focus of her compositions. In her later years, she lived in Europe, settling in France in 1992.

She rose to widespread popularity in the late 1950s, when her recording of George Gershwin’s composition “I Loves You, Porgy” became a Billboard top 40 success. Her 1957 debut album, Little Girl Blue, was critically acclaimed internationally. It included such notable songs as “My Baby Just Cares for Me,” and “Mood Indigo.” One of her most popular compositions was "To Be Young, Gifted and Black," whose lyrics were written by Weldon Irvine in the 1960s.

Nina Simone died on April 21, 2003, in Bouches-du-Rhône, France, at the age of 70.

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(Photo: REUTERS/Chip East /Landov)

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