Last week I had a chance to check out the Netflix documentary “What Happened Miss Simone?”, highlighting the life of legendary pianist & singer, Nina Simone.
Prior to me watching the documentary, I didn’t know much about Miss Simone except for a few of her songs, and the fact I despised Zoe Saldana playing her. Ugh. Is that still happening? Please say no.
Anywho, there’s only one word that can sum up Nina Simone, well actually two: brilliant and misunderstood.
It doesn’t take a genius to listen to Simone’s music and declare her brilliancy. However, I never knew how misunderstood she was or the fact that the Civil Rights Movement destroyed Nina Simone’s career. How?
Listen to Simone’s “Mississippi Goddamn” and you’ll see how. Afterwards, check out her performance of “Are You Ready?” at the Harlem Renaissance Festival (1969), and allow that to be the cherry on top. Nina Simone was angry. I don’t she how she couldn’t be. As an artist, she used her music to speak out against the injustices that Blacks endured during that time, and because of that, her career suffered. According to Simone’s partner and father of her child, Andrew Stroud, Simone became fully engulfed in the Civil Rights Movement. Her bookings declined, because people were fearful of her only singing revolutionary songs, which apparently had a major impact on her career. I can’t even imagine. Do you guys know how many times I’ve thought about toning down my content? But, I can’t. Nina Simone couldn’t. It’s different when it’s your people. This breaks my heart, because I feel Nina on sooooooooooo many levels. It’s always a shock when you discover yet again that freedom of speech ain’t really free.
On top of that, Nina Simone struggled with depression her entire life, which caused a strain between her and daughter Lisa Simone Kelly. It wasn’t until the 80’s when she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Sad and ironic, the voice who melodiously cried out “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”, words were lost in the chaos.
Did you have a chance to check out “What Happened Miss Simone?” Let me know your thoughts by commenting below.