How the Civil Rights Movement Destroyed Nina Simone’s Career : Netflix Documentary Review

by Wednesday, July 8, 2015


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.


2 Responses
  • Rashida
    July 8, 2015

    I don’t know much about her or her story either, but I’m definitely inclined to check out the documentary now! One of my friends always compares me to her when I wear my turbans so it’s only right that I educate myself on who this brilliant woman was.

  • Dr Karlyn Emile
    November 5, 2015

    I just saw the documentary and became intrigued by Ms. Simone’s life/career. I stumbled on your blog researching her. I agree that her boldness was detrimental to her music career. She certainly had the talent to be a black pianist, playing in Carnegie Hall regularly. I do see the injustice in this world/our society–her story is a sad one. She mentioned how they would tell her to “slow down” or something of that nature, in her song Mississippi God—-m. I can recall the many times I’m told that. I guess there has to be a fine balance to everything and I have to remember to keep my composure and pick my battles.
    I loved her song-Gifted and Black: Wow, you can feel how she wanted to impress it into the hearts of the next generation that they are special and not to let anything get in their way. Sigh…..I will say that in this day and age, it is best to tread lightly or be ready to face the backlash. Sometimes I say bring it, while other times, I roll with the punches for a greater good—what can you do. At any rate, Nina was one phenomenal woman—her trials were not in vain because look at how is still impacting young black women like us.

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