Yesterday marked what would be the 80th birthday of legendary singer Nina Simone. Born Eunice Kathleen Waymon, Nina Simone’s music was a soundtrack of civil rights. She was a student at Julliard until she ran out of money. She was later rejected by Curtis Institute of Music because she was black. Despite the odds, Nina Simone recorded her first album in 1958 and her top 40 hit “I Loves You Porgy” from Porgy and Bess.
Called the “High Priestess of Soul,” Nina Simone created songs that spoke to the conditions of the civil rights movement. In 1963, she released “Mississippi Goddam” in response to the assassination of activist Medgar Evers and the bombing of 16th street Baptist Church that killed four little girls and injured a fifth. When Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed in 1968, Simone released “Why (The King of Love Is Dead).”
Simone’s music was presented with deep-rooted meaning. Her 1970 song “Young, Gifted and Black” for her late friend Loarraine Hansberry became a black power anthem. She became worn on America’s struggle for equality and moved to several countries, including Liberia, Switzerland, England, before settling in the South of France. She was also in constant conflict with her own life as it pertained to personal finances and business management.
Nina Simone issued a series of re-made cover hits throughout the 1970’s, including the Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun.” By the 1980’s, she had made international commercial hits like “My Baby Just Cares For Me.” In the 1990’s Simone brought her music back the states, with a loved reception by critics.
Nina Simone passed away on April 21, 2003, at her home in Carry-le-Rouet, France. Her cause of death is unknown, while some speculate that it was breast cancer.
The legacy of Nina Simone lives in her autobiography, I Put a Spell on You (1992). Her daughter Lisa, also a performer, has presented tribute to her mother through her own stage performances. The Broadway actress even uses the stage name Simone.
Most recently, songstress Meshell Ndegeocello has re-released Simone’s song “Black Is the Colour (Of My True Love’s Hair)” in honor of the singer’s 80th birthday.
Controversy surrounded the casting of a Nina Simone biopic when actress Zoe Saldana was cast for the lead. The uproar was regarding Saldana’s light complexion versus Simone’s darker skin tone. Regardless of opinion, Saldana will star as Simone along with Mike Epps and David Oyelowo in a 2013 production by Cynthia Mort.
Celebrating Breast Cancer Survivors
22 photos Launch gallery
1. Richard Roundtree was diagnosed with a rare male breast cancer in '93 and underwent a double mastectomy at age 61.
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2. Wanda Sykes found out she had breast cancer when she went in for a breast reduction. She opted for a double mastectomy.
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3. Angelina Jolie tested positive for the breast cancer gene BRCA1 in 2014. As a result she had a double mastectomy.
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4. Robin Roberts was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007 and returned to work a month after surgery & chemo. (AP)
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5. Diahann Carroll was diagnosed in 1998 & 10 years later she had a bestselling comedic book about her battle with breast cancer.
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6. Sheryl Crow was diagnosed at age 44 in 2006 and credits early detection to her survival. (AP)
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7. Patti LaBelle was diagnosed in 2005 and is cancer-free today. (Photo: AP)
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8. Kylie Minogue was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005 at age 37 and is now cancer free after chemo. (Photo:AP)
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9. Hoda Kotb was diagnosed in 2006 and underwent a mastectomy & reconstructive surgery. She is now cancer-free. (AP)
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10. Fashion designer Betsy Johnson was diagnosed in 2002 is now cancer-free. (Photo: AP)
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11. Giuliana Rancic was diagnosed at age 36 and underwent a double mastectomy. (Photo: AP)
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12. Rene Syler chose to have a preventive mastectomy due to carrying the breast cancer gene. She is cancer-free today and happy.
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13. Christina Applegate underwent a double mastectomy and is now cancer-free and working harder than ever. (AP)
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14. Poet and author Nikki Giovani battled and conqured both lung and breast cancer.
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15. Melissa Ethridge was diagnosed in 2004 at age 43. She performed at the 2005 Grammy Awards bald, beautiful & cancer-free.
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16. Retired WNBA player Edna Campbell is a breast cancer survivor and penned a Breast Cancer Recovery Manual. (AP)
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17. Cynthia Nixon of Sex & the City fame was diagnosed in 2006. She had a lumpectomy and radiation and is now cancer-free.
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18. Peter Criss The ex-KISS drummer who penned the power ballad “Beth” is one the few faces of male breast cancer & survivor. PR
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19. Actress, director and Oscar-winner Kathy Bates recently revealed she had a double mastectomy and is doing great. PR
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20. Singer, novelist, actress & model Marsha Hunt was diagnosed with Breast cancer in 2004 and is now cancer free. (Pinterest)
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21. Oklahoma state Sen. Judy Eason McIntyre is a survivor and a tireless advocate for breast cancer research. (Flickr)
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22. Nancy Brinker founder of the Susan G Komen for the Cure Foundation is also a breast cancer survivor. (AP)
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