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Playlist: Five From Nina Simone

[column size=one_half position=first ]ns3Nina Simone’s career tracks the experience of female African American artists during the middle and later part of the 20th century. The bottom line is that it wasn’t easy.

Simone was born as Eunice Kathleen Waymon in 1933 in Tyron, North Carolina. She was the sixth of eight children. The young Waymon auditioned for a scholarship to The Curtis Academy in Philadelphia. She was rejected — and later told that the reason was the color of her skin.

Simone moved to New York City and studied piano at Julliard. She supported herself by playing jazz, standards and blues in clubs — and began singing at the behest of the owner of one of them. Eventually, she signed a record deal and had a hit with “I Loves You Porgy” from “Porgy and Bess.” Simone changed her new name in 1954 and worked the coffee houses in Greenwich Village and befriended Langston Hughes, James Baldwin and other important figures in the African-American community. A great photo of Simone and Baldwin accompanies a long story about the singer in this week’s New Yorker.

Simone became increasingly radicalized and civil rights music became an ever-bigger part of her repertoire. At one point she backed armed struggle as a way for Blacks to gain their own homeland.

[/column][column size=one_half position=last ] [/column]Simone was diagnosed with bipolar disorder later in life. This led to erratic behavior, including shooting at a record executive (not the first performer to want to do so, to be sure).  She missed.

Simone could be impervious and difficult, but warmed up later in her career. Biography suggests that Simone was difficult to categorize:

In many ways, Simone’s music defied standard definitions. Her classical training showed through, no matter what genre of song she played, and she drew from many sources including gospel, pop and folk. She was often called the “High Priestess of Soul,” but she hated that nickname. She didn’t like the label of “jazz singer”, either. “If I had to be called something, it should have been a folk singer because there was more folk and blues than jazz in my playing,” she later wrote.

Simone died, probably of breast cancer, in France in 2003.

Home page photo: Ron Kroon. Information from Biography and Wikipedia was used in this post.


Our New Things: Links to Music Sites and Info on Analog Tech and Vinyl

TDMB has focused on music and musicians. We will continue to do that, of course. We're also expanding our coverage to include vinyl and analog equipment.

More specifically, we'll look at this huge and interesting world from the perspective of music lovers who want a better experience, not committed non-audiophiles.

Check out is some of what we've written so far:

-- Assessing the Value of Vinyl Records: An Overview

-- 7 Quick Tips on Optimizing Your Turntable Cartridge

-- Why Vinyl Records Continue to Thrive

-- Finding the Best Amplifier

-- Finding the Best Phono Preamp

-- What Speakers Do I Need for My Turntable?

Check out more articles on analog equipment and vinyl.

The site also is home to The Internet Music Mapping Project, an effort to list and describe as many music-related sites as possible.

Our Music

--A Tribe Called Quest to The Dick Hyman Trio (In other words, A to H)

--Indigo Girls to Queen Ida (I to Q)

--Radiohead to ZZ Top (R to Z)

Reading Music

The stories of the great bands and musicians are fascinating. Musicians as a group are brilliant, but often troubled. The combination of creativity and drama makes for great reading.

Here are some books to check out.

Duke Ellington brought class, sophistication and style to jazz which, until that point, was proudly unpolished and raucous. His story is profound. The author, Terry Teachout, also wrote "Pops," the acclaimed bio of Louis Armstrong. Click here or on the image.


What else is there to say? Here is the story behind every song written by The Beatles. Click here or on the image.


The Grateful Dead don't get enough credit for the profound nature of its lyrics. Many of the band's songs are driven by a deep and literate Americana ("I'm Uncle Sam/That's who I am/Been hidin' out/In a rock and roll band" and "Majordomo Billy Bojangles/Sit down and have a drink with me/What's this about Alabama/Keeps comin' back to me?").

David Dodd's exhaustive study tells the story, song by song. Click here or on the image.

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