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
19 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 on August 3, 2007 (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 says early detection of the disease is the reason she's here. She opted for a lumpectomy which is a surgical removal of a portion of the breast. (AP)
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7. Patti LaBelle was diagnosed in 2005 and is cancer-free today. She lost her two sisters to lung cancer. (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 and an advocate for breast cancer awareness. (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. Almost 8 years ago, Vanessa Bell Calloway had a mastectomy and reconstructive surgery on her right breast on October 26. (PR)
Source:Gregg DeGuire WireImage/Getty Images
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12. Giuliana Rancic was diagnosed at age 36 in October of 2011 and underwent a double mastectomy. She has been cancer free for the last 6 years. (Photo: AP)
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13. Rene Syler chose to have a preventive mastectomy due to carrying the breast cancer gene. Both her mother and father had breast cancer and survived. She is cancer-free today and happy. (PR)
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14. Poet and author Nikki Giovani battled and conqured both lung and breast cancer.
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15. Retired WNBA player Edna Campbell is a breast cancer survivor and penned a Breast Cancer Recovery Manual. She was diagnosed in February of 2002. She has been cancer free for 15 years. (AP)
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16. Singer, novelist, actress & model Marsha Hunt was diagnosed with Breast cancer in 2004. She had a complete mastectomy and no reconstructive surgery. She is now cancer free. (Pinterest)
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17. Actress and civil rights leader Ruby Dee was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1970. She defeated the disease and died in 2014 of natural causes. (PR)
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18. Oklahoma state Sen. Judy Eason McIntyre is a survivor and a tireless advocate for breast cancer research. She was diagnosed in August of 2006 and received a double mastectomy to reduce the chances of the disease coming back. (Flickr)
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19. Motivational speaker Bershan Shaw at age 33 was diagnosed with breast cancer and got through it. Two years later the cancer came back as a stage 4 diagnose, but she worked really hard and beat it then too.
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