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Nina Simone Dies

Nina Simone, a singer who felt at home in the genres of jazz, blues, soul, pop and gospel, among others, died yesterday at her home in southern France. She was 70. Yahoo!/Launch reported that she had suffered a stroke, but other sources have not given a specific cause of death.

Born Eunice Waymon in Tryon, N.C. in 1933, Simone was the sixth of seven children in a poor family. She was a musical prodigy and had learned to play piano by age four. Through the help of her music teacher, who set up the Eunice Waymon Fund while the gifted child was still young, Simone was later able to attend the Juilliard School of Music in New York.

Gigging in east-coast clubs in the early 1950s, she was offered a job in an Atlantic City bar, granted she sang along to her piano playing. It was then that she began her rise to stardom as a singer/pianist, and it was then that she changed her name, choosing Nina because it means “little one” and Simone after the French actress Simone Signoret.

Simone’s recording career-she made over 50 albums-began with 1957’s Nina Simone and her Friends on the Bethlehem label. In 1959 she had a number-one hit with a rendition of “I Loves You, Porgy.” Much of her work was politically charged. With her deep voice and emotional delivery Simone made the songs “Mississippi Goddam!,” “Old Jim Crow,” and “To Be Young, Gifted, And Black” anthems of the civil rights movement.

In 1973 Simone left the United States due to what she believed were worsening race relations in the country and relocated to Liberia and then Barbados before settling in France. She lived in the South of France on and off for years and continued to tour and record, but not as frequently as she did in the ’60s. She had been in poor health for the past few years.

Simone is survived by three brothers, a sister and a daughter.

Originally Published