Eunice Kathleen Waymon was born a prodigy. Growing up as a young aspiring concert pianist, her talent was clear from birth onward. Even her mother recognized the talent at just six months old—her daughter could recognize musical notes. By age three, she was playing complete compositions.
Eunice, the sixth in a poor North Carolina family of eight children, held big dreams despite the circumstances. With the help and encouragement of her community, they helped fund her way to enroll at the Juilliard School of Music to study piano.
She would later apply for a scholarship to study at the iconic Curtis Institute of Music. However, despite her audition, she was denied. The denial was attributed to racism, and with this rejection, the young artist saw she was going to have to reinvent herself.
“I knew I was good enough, but they turned me down. And it took me about six months to realize it was because I was Black. I never really got over that jolt of racism at the time,” Simone relayed in the What Happened, Miss Simone? documentary.
Thus, Nina Simone was born.
Nina Simone launched her singing career with a mix of pop and gospel with classical music. Starting as a jazz vocalist, her musical style delivered the same flare alongside her blues and R&B sounds. Though Simone didn’t write many of her own songs, she established herself as one of the finest interpreters of all time. Simone released over forty albums between 1958 and 1974, an amazing feat for any artist.
Simone continues to inspire many artists today, including John Legend, Mary J. Blige, Lauryn Hill, Usher, and many more.
With over 40 albums released during a career, how can you pick the top ten songs? Here’s our humble list of Nina Simone’s Top 10 Songs.
10. “My Baby Just Cares for Me”
9. “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free”
8. “I Ain’t Got No, I Got Life”
7. “Four Women”
5. “To Be Young, Gifted and Black”
4. “I Put A Spell on You”
3. “Mississippi Goddam”
2. “I Loves You Porgy”
1. “Feeling Good”
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