Rock Hall Inductee Nina Simone: The Voice And Spirit

Wednesday, 20 December 2017 10:28 AM Written by 


Vanity Fair reacted to the announcement of the pending induction of Nina Simone (1923-2003) into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as an influence with the following article. It effectively summarizes the reasons a singer known primarily as a jazz vocalist, composer and social activist would receive such an honor.  And in truth, while she disliked the term jazz, her repertoire encompassed much more: blues, folk music, pop standards and her own compositions. 

Despite a documentary and a largely unseen and highly controversial biopic released in 2016 starring Zoe Saldana,  (whose casting and lack of resemblance to the singer was the center of the controversy) Simone's achievements and uncompromising spirit, along with her music, are self-explanatory. For those not familiar, here's a bit of a crash course. Her influence on rock players, particularly British rockers, the Animals and Steve Winwood among them, was profound.

1959: "I Love You Porgy" from the Gershwin musical Porgy and Bess (# 18 single)


"Nobody Knows You When You Are Down And Out" Her rendering of the Bessie Smith original (# 23 R&B).

"Trouble In Mind" The Richard Jones blues standard, live at the Newport Jazz Festival ( # 11 R&B)

1962: "My Baby Just Cares for Me"

1964: "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood." Her version was eclipsed by a hit pop version by the Brit blues-rock group the Animals, with Eric Burdon singing lead. Many don't realize she did it first.


"Feeling Good" from the Broadway musical The Roar of the Greasepaint-The Smell of the Crowd. Steve Winwood performed a Nina-influenced version during his early days leading his band Traffic.

 Her views on the Civil Rights movement in this jaunty, witty, blunt-talking protest, recorded at the International Jazz Festival in Antibes, France.

June, 1969: "To Be Young, Gifted And Black" Filmed during a recording session in Atlanta.

Simone's complex, deeply troubled and controversial life was comprehensively covered in this 2016 documentary.

And now you know at least some of the reasons she belongs in the Rock Hall of Fame.


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