Starting 2019 w/ Soul- PART 6: NINA SIMONE (High Priestess of Soul)

After watching a documentary called "What Ever Happened To Miss Simone?", I became fascinated by American singer, songwriter, pianist, arranger, and activist in the civil rights movement: NINA SIMONE. I wanted to capture a character of true talent and true grit, who, like other soul artists such as Sam Cooke, James Brown, dealt with issues of discrimination and segregation in their lifetime and fought in life and with their art to overcome it. Spanning a wide range of musical styles that included classical, jazz, blues, folk, R&B, gospel and pop, Simone's talent was as impressive as the story of her life was illuminating.


**NINA SIMONE 16x20 inches Mixed Media Limited Edition Poster

Nina Simone was born in North Carolina and was the sixth child of a preacher and initially she aspired to be a concert pianist. With the help of a few supporters in her hometown of Tryon, she enrolled in the Juilliard School of Music in New York. She then applied for a scholarship to study at the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where she was denied admission despite a well-received audition. Simone became fully convinced this rejection had been entirely due to racial discrimination. In order to make a living, Simone started playing piano at a nightclub in Atlantic City. She changed her name from Eunice Waymon to "Nina Simone" to disguise herself from family members, who disapproved of her choice to play what they described as "the devil's music" and "cocktail piano". In the nightclub, she was told that she would have to sing to her own accompaniment, a method which effectively led to and launched her career as a jazz vocalist. Impressively, Simone recorded more than 40 albums between 1958 and 1974. Simone's musical style fused gospel and pop with classical music, and accompanied expressive, jazz-like singing. Despite her initial success, however, Simone's life was complicated by spousal abuse, bipolar disorder that was undiagnosed until later in her life, controversy and bans spurred on by her social and political views, and racial discrimination.


Ultimately, Simone was a complex and fascinating figure whose personal pain and adversity was poured into her work and places her among a list of artists and activists who ultimately and sadly were not appreciated fully until their life and career were behind them. For my portrait, I captured Miss Simone full bodied and full of angst to represent her attitude and strength as an artist and activist.


-G

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