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Nina Simone: The Biography

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Born Eunice Kathleen Waymon in North Carolina at the tail-end of the Great Depression, Nina Simone was a precocious child with dreams of becoming the world’s first black classical soloist. After a rejection from an elite New York conservatoire—a rejection she always believed stemmed from the color of her skin—she began performing jazz, blues, and classical songs in a bar t Born Eunice Kathleen Waymon in North Carolina at the tail-end of the Great Depression, Nina Simone was a precocious child with dreams of becoming the world’s first black classical soloist. After a rejection from an elite New York conservatoire—a rejection she always believed stemmed from the color of her skin—she began performing jazz, blues, and classical songs in a bar to fund her music studies. In 1958 her rendition of the Gershwin standard “I Loves You Porgy” became a Top 40 hit, and her subsequent debut album Little Girl Blue launched what would become an extensive singing and songwriting career. Drawing on a wealth of original interviews with Simone’s closest associates, this extraordinary biography follows her sparkling career as well as her passionate belief in racial equality that eventually led her to undergo self-imposed exile from America in 1970. Featuring rare photographs and a review of Simone’s more than 40 albums and numerous hits, this is an extensive look at the complex and extremely talented diva.


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Born Eunice Kathleen Waymon in North Carolina at the tail-end of the Great Depression, Nina Simone was a precocious child with dreams of becoming the world’s first black classical soloist. After a rejection from an elite New York conservatoire—a rejection she always believed stemmed from the color of her skin—she began performing jazz, blues, and classical songs in a bar t Born Eunice Kathleen Waymon in North Carolina at the tail-end of the Great Depression, Nina Simone was a precocious child with dreams of becoming the world’s first black classical soloist. After a rejection from an elite New York conservatoire—a rejection she always believed stemmed from the color of her skin—she began performing jazz, blues, and classical songs in a bar to fund her music studies. In 1958 her rendition of the Gershwin standard “I Loves You Porgy” became a Top 40 hit, and her subsequent debut album Little Girl Blue launched what would become an extensive singing and songwriting career. Drawing on a wealth of original interviews with Simone’s closest associates, this extraordinary biography follows her sparkling career as well as her passionate belief in racial equality that eventually led her to undergo self-imposed exile from America in 1970. Featuring rare photographs and a review of Simone’s more than 40 albums and numerous hits, this is an extensive look at the complex and extremely talented diva.

56 review for Nina Simone: The Biography

  1. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    I'm not really a fan of Nina Simone. Its not that I don't like her music, its just that I haven't really taken the time to listen to it. Going into this book I had heard of Nina Simone and I knew that she was my two favorite artists ( Beyonce & Lauryn Hill) favorite artist. And I knew that she had a reputation for being difficult to work with. So when I saw this book at B&N I decided to buy it to find out more about her. Nina Simone was a child prodigy, a trained classical pianist who because of I'm not really a fan of Nina Simone. Its not that I don't like her music, its just that I haven't really taken the time to listen to it. Going into this book I had heard of Nina Simone and I knew that she was my two favorite artists ( Beyonce & Lauryn Hill) favorite artist. And I knew that she had a reputation for being difficult to work with. So when I saw this book at B&N I decided to buy it to find out more about her. Nina Simone was a child prodigy, a trained classical pianist who because of her race was denied entrance to Juilliard and the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia even though she was definitely talented enough to get into both. And those stinging rejections stayed with her for her entire life. She never got over that or the fact that her mother never seemed proud of her. Nina grew up with a lot of pain and anger and that anger would only grow as she got older. Nina Simone is one of the most influential Jazz artists of all time(even if she hated Jazz music). She was a feminist and civil rights crusader. She was friends with Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X, Harry Belafonte and later in life Nelson Mandela. But as many friends as she had she never really got close to anybody. Not even her own daughter. She craved love but was known as a tyrannical monster. But through this book and the great work by the author I came to understand Nina and I felt intensely sad for her. What most people never knew was that Nina lived with Bi-polar disease. She wasn't a monster she was just sick. But she never received treatment until she was in her 50's. Nina Simone lived a sad and lonely life but she was able to overcome that in order to create a lifetime of truly amazing music. Now that I've "met" Nina Simone I fully intend to immerse myself in her music(listened to her greatest hits while reading). I wasn't fan before but I have no doubt I will be soon.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Fabia Consorti

    Ho finito di leggere questa stupenda biografia di Nina Simone. Sono rimasta davvero entusiasta di questo libro, perché si è rivelato molto più ricco di quello che potevo aspettarmi. Anche se Nina Simone non la conoscete, o non vi interessa affatto, io vi consiglio di leggerlo ugualmente. In queste pagine la vita della cantante è stata l'occasione per dare al lettore una quantità enorme ed interessante di informazioni preziosissime. C'è tanta storia della musica, ovviamente, ma anche una bella fe Ho finito di leggere questa stupenda biografia di Nina Simone. Sono rimasta davvero entusiasta di questo libro, perché si è rivelato molto più ricco di quello che potevo aspettarmi. Anche se Nina Simone non la conoscete, o non vi interessa affatto, io vi consiglio di leggerlo ugualmente. In queste pagine la vita della cantante è stata l'occasione per dare al lettore una quantità enorme ed interessante di informazioni preziosissime. C'è tanta storia della musica, ovviamente, ma anche una bella fetta di storia americana e della segregazione, la lotta per i diritti civili, e i personaggi di rilievo che in vario modo sono passati per la vita di Nina. C'è anche l'Africa e la sua storia, l'Europa dove Nina ha vissuto nel suo eterno vagabondare. C'è anche il racconto della malattia mentale, della solitudine, della follia. Non è affatto una biografia celebrativa della diva, ma anzi l'ho trovata estremamente onesta, senza la pretesa di affermare verità assolute. È stata un bellissimo viaggio.

  3. 5 out of 5

    GloriaGloom

    Forse ci sarebbe voluta la penna limpida e rabbiosa di una Toni Morrison -tra l'altro sua grande amica- per riuscire a contenere tutto il debordante mondo di una delle più grandi musiciste del secolo scorso (e chi la nega, la sua grandezza, son pronto a sfidarlo a duello stanotte dietro il convento delle Carmelitane Scalze), da questa parte dell'oceano, purtroppo, conosciuta ai più solo per l'irritante uso che la Chanel ha fatto della sua interpretazione di My Baby Just Care For Me (che la stess Forse ci sarebbe voluta la penna limpida e rabbiosa di una Toni Morrison -tra l'altro sua grande amica- per riuscire a contenere tutto il debordante mondo di una delle più grandi musiciste del secolo scorso (e chi la nega, la sua grandezza, son pronto a sfidarlo a duello stanotte dietro il convento delle Carmelitane Scalze), da questa parte dell'oceano, purtroppo, conosciuta ai più solo per l'irritante uso che la Chanel ha fatto della sua interpretazione di My Baby Just Care For Me (che la stessa Simone definirà come la cosa più idiota e inoffensiva che abbia mai inciso)- invece ci tocca questo insipiente David Brun Lambert - Carneade? che era costui? - che sta al jazz, al giornalismo e al buon senso come io alla fisica delle particelle. Ci son sparse ovunque bellissime perle di pura stolidità, una per tutte, nelle prime pagine, Sara Vaughan diventa una famosa "pianista", unite ad altrettante perle di insipienza di traduzione (Dio li fa e poi l'accoppia): progressioni armoniche che diventano misteriosi "suoni progressivi"; mancanza assoluta di fonti, laddove i biografi americani ci hanno abituato a interviste anche ai compagni di banco della terza elementare e al pizzicagnolo dietro l'angolo, qui c'è invece solo un rubar a piene mani da stralci dell'autobiografia pubblicata dalla stessa musicista; analisi discografiche di banalità esaperante; un florilegio di luoghi comuni intorno a razza e sesso e psicologia di terza mano. Non c'è nulla di Nina Simone qui, né la sua capacità unica di sintesi musicale -la sola in grado di cucire in modo naturale una pentatonica a Rachmaninov nel giro di poche battute - né il suo spirito di radicale rinnovamento nell'ambito di una tradizione consolidata. Niente di niente. Puro revisonismo culturale che, alla fine, fa sembrare la vita e l'arte di una musicista tanto originale e innovativa equiparabile a quella di una qualunque nevrotica rockstar del ciufolo. Quanto mi fa incazzare 'sto Brun Lambert, quasi quasi attendo lui dietro il Convento delle Carmelitane Scalze.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Vicky

    Half uplifting, half depressing account of Simone's life with all its vicissitudes and troubles. It didn't make me wish I'd met her, but it did make me want to rush out and find more of her music, and feel slightly embarrassed that my favourite songs were clearly her least favourite. And to wish I'd seen her play live, as my dad was lucky enough to. Aside from the music it got me thinking about the nature of bipolar conditions, and how people and those close to them cope with this lack of emotio Half uplifting, half depressing account of Simone's life with all its vicissitudes and troubles. It didn't make me wish I'd met her, but it did make me want to rush out and find more of her music, and feel slightly embarrassed that my favourite songs were clearly her least favourite. And to wish I'd seen her play live, as my dad was lucky enough to. Aside from the music it got me thinking about the nature of bipolar conditions, and how people and those close to them cope with this lack of emotional stability or predictability; and about enduring friendships sometimes despite all the odds.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Zoe

    An expansive look at the life of a fascinating woman. Some phrases are translated awkwardly, but overall a very good read - definitely recommend if you've ever been entranced by Nina's work. An expansive look at the life of a fascinating woman. Some phrases are translated awkwardly, but overall a very good read - definitely recommend if you've ever been entranced by Nina's work.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Richard

    Fascinating and comprehensive biography of the talented but troubled singer. I learnt so much I didn't know about Nina & the book gives a fascinating insight into her musical development and personal troubles. My only criticism-aside from the cover there are no pictures, it would have been nice to see some photos from her live performances as well as of her family and friends. Highly recommended for any fan of Miss Simone. Fascinating and comprehensive biography of the talented but troubled singer. I learnt so much I didn't know about Nina & the book gives a fascinating insight into her musical development and personal troubles. My only criticism-aside from the cover there are no pictures, it would have been nice to see some photos from her live performances as well as of her family and friends. Highly recommended for any fan of Miss Simone.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Elise Weeks

    I learned so much more about this woman who I've loved for many, many years. I appreciate her genius on a new level, but as others mention, had a bit of a hard time connecting with the author's writing style. Looking forward to reading her autobiography, even if as this author explains may also be flawed. I deeply regret not getting to see her perform live in my lifetime. I learned so much more about this woman who I've loved for many, many years. I appreciate her genius on a new level, but as others mention, had a bit of a hard time connecting with the author's writing style. Looking forward to reading her autobiography, even if as this author explains may also be flawed. I deeply regret not getting to see her perform live in my lifetime.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jane

    Now I'm wondering whether I really wanted to know how mentally ill Nina Simone was, as this book atests. Listen to her songs, and you don't hear the hallucinations, rage, nor illness that seemed such a huge part of her life. It was sad to learn more about her. Now I'm wondering whether I really wanted to know how mentally ill Nina Simone was, as this book atests. Listen to her songs, and you don't hear the hallucinations, rage, nor illness that seemed such a huge part of her life. It was sad to learn more about her.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    Really great biography, although it was very heart wrenching to hear of all the things this incredible woman went through.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    I've always been a little obsessed with Nina Simone, but this book was absolutely filled with typos, over-philosophizing, and a confusing and repetitive timeline (which he does sort of explain). I've always been a little obsessed with Nina Simone, but this book was absolutely filled with typos, over-philosophizing, and a confusing and repetitive timeline (which he does sort of explain).

  11. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth Grace

    The book itself only gets 3 stars, but I added an extra just for Nina herself, who is a 5 star legend. This biography balances the melodrama of her life with an in-depth analysis of her discography. The hardest part about the book is that the English is a little clumsy—in order to preserve the original author’s “voice,” the translation doesn’t extend to the discourse level, so the organization comes across as very French, with a lot of digressions that can be disorienting. Brun-Lambert keeps a go The book itself only gets 3 stars, but I added an extra just for Nina herself, who is a 5 star legend. This biography balances the melodrama of her life with an in-depth analysis of her discography. The hardest part about the book is that the English is a little clumsy—in order to preserve the original author’s “voice,” the translation doesn’t extend to the discourse level, so the organization comes across as very French, with a lot of digressions that can be disorienting. Brun-Lambert keeps a good distance to his subject, getting personal when he had the interviews and evidence to back it up, and avoiding excessive speculation when the facts eluded him. It inspired me to put her albums on repeat, and helped me discover some new favorite songs. Now excuse me while I go listen to Pirate Jenny for the 100th time.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Ross

    Any biography of a major black American figure from the 20th century will also, inevitably, be a history of that country’s racism, it’s most successful global export - segregation, sterilisation, eugenics, medical experiments, slavery and state-sanctioned lawful murder, all ideological concepts gleefully adopted by Hitler and his cronies and worked to a state of perfection which white Americans could only dream of (and probably still do). This is a warm and affectionate biography, placing Simone Any biography of a major black American figure from the 20th century will also, inevitably, be a history of that country’s racism, it’s most successful global export - segregation, sterilisation, eugenics, medical experiments, slavery and state-sanctioned lawful murder, all ideological concepts gleefully adopted by Hitler and his cronies and worked to a state of perfection which white Americans could only dream of (and probably still do). This is a warm and affectionate biography, placing Simone’s rage, and her increasingly fraught psychological distress, anxiety and bi-polar disorder within this frame of racism, familial dysfunction and neglect, spousal abuse, record company exploitation, and the violent tumult of the civil rights movement in the 60’s, whose leaders, the ones Simone revered and admired were either exiled from American society, or shot dead.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Nina

    DNF. Early on in this book the author states Nina Simone grew up in Tryon, NC, a small agricultural community in the eastern part of the state. I’m not familiar with every small NC town so I didn’t think much about it. Shortly after that he mentions it being not far from the Mason-Dixon Line. Hmm, I think, even if it’s in the very north-eastern part of the state, that is nowhere near the Mason-Dixon Line. Then we get to the part where he says Nina is sent to a boarding school in Asheville, “fift DNF. Early on in this book the author states Nina Simone grew up in Tryon, NC, a small agricultural community in the eastern part of the state. I’m not familiar with every small NC town so I didn’t think much about it. Shortly after that he mentions it being not far from the Mason-Dixon Line. Hmm, I think, even if it’s in the very north-eastern part of the state, that is nowhere near the Mason-Dixon Line. Then we get to the part where he says Nina is sent to a boarding school in Asheville, “fifty miles from Tryon” and I’m done. Asheville isn’t the farthest west you can go in NC but it is ALL THE WAY in the western part of this very large state and no place within 50 miles of it could conceivably be considered in eastern NC. If the author can’t get such easily researched facts straight, what else has he got wrong? Life’s too short to spend with unreliable authors.

  14. 5 out of 5

    The Book Grocer

    Purchase Nina Simone here for just $10! In this biography of one of music’s most fascinating figures, Brun-Lambert draws on original interviews with Simone’s closest associates to follow both the curb of her career, and her passionate contribution to the fight for racial equality. With rare photographs and a review of Simone’s extensive catalogue, this is a comprehensive look at an extremely talented musician and her extraordinary life. Amarina, - The Book Grocer Purchase Nina Simone here for just $10! In this biography of one of music’s most fascinating figures, Brun-Lambert draws on original interviews with Simone’s closest associates to follow both the curb of her career, and her passionate contribution to the fight for racial equality. With rare photographs and a review of Simone’s extensive catalogue, this is a comprehensive look at an extremely talented musician and her extraordinary life. Amarina, - The Book Grocer

  15. 5 out of 5

    Kyle

    A compelling and detailed biography of Nina Simone. Gave me a great structure of the albums and more knowledge about this interesting woman. Listening to the albums corresponding with the chapters made for involving and absorbing reading. Worth reading if you like Nina Simone or the Civil Rights movement.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Aimée

    A detailed and expanded look into the life of Nina Simone. Both sad and uplifting. It seemed like the author did very good and thorough research into her life, personality and music. If interested in her music, definitely a must-read.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Mike Merrill

    Good solid piece of writing about a jazz legend ., from her beginnings of wanting to be the first black concert pianist , to her life as an activist , spokeswoman and performer of the civil rights movement ... Saw a live DVD of her shows and it was spellbinding

  18. 5 out of 5

    April

    While I loved the content & learning about Simone's life, I couldn't help but feel a distance from the writer. It was hard facts & no passion in the writing. most of the citations are from Nina's own book "I put a spell on you." David also repeats himself too much. For instance, he will place the chapter spoiler at the beginning, then spend 2-3 pages building back up to the spoiler he previously described. I researched all the Simone bios & supposedly this is the best one because it pulls from sev While I loved the content & learning about Simone's life, I couldn't help but feel a distance from the writer. It was hard facts & no passion in the writing. most of the citations are from Nina's own book "I put a spell on you." David also repeats himself too much. For instance, he will place the chapter spoiler at the beginning, then spend 2-3 pages building back up to the spoiler he previously described. I researched all the Simone bios & supposedly this is the best one because it pulls from several sources., So either another writer needs to get on this, or we're stuck with a semi-poorly written, distanced bio about an amazingly talented woman. This book sells her short with its lack of passion

  19. 5 out of 5

    Sharon

    I couldn't finish this book off. I don't know if it is due to this book being a translation from French, but the way the author wrote, I felt the book was hard going trying to read and keep track of events. I confess, I knew little about Nina Simone before reading this, and while I still am not a expert after reading this book, I can at least claim to know a bit more. So sad that her life was trying to please her mother, and some mother she must have been to not even acknowledge what great things I couldn't finish this book off. I don't know if it is due to this book being a translation from French, but the way the author wrote, I felt the book was hard going trying to read and keep track of events. I confess, I knew little about Nina Simone before reading this, and while I still am not a expert after reading this book, I can at least claim to know a bit more. So sad that her life was trying to please her mother, and some mother she must have been to not even acknowledge what great things her daughterr did. She must have been something to see in concert. I just wish this book was a better read than what it was, so I could have read more, and found out more about this famous artist.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Dawn

    This well written book led to so many wonderful moments for me...inside and outside of the book. I was introduced to unfamiliar music of Nina Simone and other artist (YouTube!) while easing through the pages. Also the book is laced with little nuggets of historical facts. The history tidbits were a great way to put Nina Simone's "life and times" in perspective...to give the story context and perspective. Nina Simone...she was the best of times, she was the worst of times (really)...splendor and This well written book led to so many wonderful moments for me...inside and outside of the book. I was introduced to unfamiliar music of Nina Simone and other artist (YouTube!) while easing through the pages. Also the book is laced with little nuggets of historical facts. The history tidbits were a great way to put Nina Simone's "life and times" in perspective...to give the story context and perspective. Nina Simone...she was the best of times, she was the worst of times (really)...splendor and tragedy all wrapped up into one...I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent here...you will too. Read this book.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Emilia Djiapouras

    Mesmerising. Nina's Simon's life was fraught with barriers from a young age, and to read this book was like listening to her voice come through and defy those barriers as she pursued her music, that sought to effect change in the industry. After reading this book, I watched the documentary, 'What Happened, Miss Simone?'- because I wanted to know more about her. Her music became the soundtrack to the rise of black power, and Lambert is successful in highlighting this. Brilliant book. I highly reco Mesmerising. Nina's Simon's life was fraught with barriers from a young age, and to read this book was like listening to her voice come through and defy those barriers as she pursued her music, that sought to effect change in the industry. After reading this book, I watched the documentary, 'What Happened, Miss Simone?'- because I wanted to know more about her. Her music became the soundtrack to the rise of black power, and Lambert is successful in highlighting this. Brilliant book. I highly recommend.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Danyell Aston

    I've been a fan of her music for many years, and I knew that she lived somewhat of a tragic life, but wow! I don't think I could ever have imagined the things that this gifted woman lived through. Very insightful and informative, but all the while emotionally charged. You get the feeling from reading this bio that the writer has a great affinity for the artist. I've been a fan of her music for many years, and I knew that she lived somewhat of a tragic life, but wow! I don't think I could ever have imagined the things that this gifted woman lived through. Very insightful and informative, but all the while emotionally charged. You get the feeling from reading this bio that the writer has a great affinity for the artist.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Sandra (Book Loves) Atueyi

    I did not know anything about Nina Simone. I decide to read about her and learn about her. She became from good childhood to depression woman. She has been through in her life. I have learned a lot about her from this book. She is a inspirational to anyone and myself. I am looking forward to watch the movie about her. She is a legend and good pianist.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Solor

    A very good portrait of an artist whose style was unique, her incredible musicianship and her sheer inevitable unhappiness and despair. A woman who strives for love and tenderness but only finds humiliation and treason.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Vera

    Phenomenal woman and recollection. Brun-Lamert's reporting reminded me of the dearly missed Peter Jennings: there was grace there, lack of fascination with scandal and acute sensitivity to mere speculations. Phenomenal woman and recollection. Brun-Lamert's reporting reminded me of the dearly missed Peter Jennings: there was grace there, lack of fascination with scandal and acute sensitivity to mere speculations.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Raphaël

    le problème classique des vies hors du commun narrées dans une écriture plus que commune... beaucoup de citations des autres bios de la chanteuse, à se demander s'il ne fallait pas en choisir une autre ! le problème classique des vies hors du commun narrées dans une écriture plus que commune... beaucoup de citations des autres bios de la chanteuse, à se demander s'il ne fallait pas en choisir une autre !

  27. 5 out of 5

    Alicia Mikolajczyk

    Really interesting and tragic life of a great artist. Highly recommended lecture

  28. 5 out of 5

    Keisha Kovacs

    Fantastic, detailed biography

  29. 4 out of 5

    Michel Verdonck

    9/10

  30. 5 out of 5

    Madjita

  31. 4 out of 5

    Maartje De Meulder

  32. 4 out of 5

    Josh

  33. 4 out of 5

    Bill

  34. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

  35. 5 out of 5

    Shahab

  36. 5 out of 5

    Alma

  37. 5 out of 5

    Molly

  38. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

  39. 4 out of 5

    Dvlede

  40. 5 out of 5

    Dottie

  41. 4 out of 5

    Brandi Morgan

  42. 5 out of 5

    Emmy Fellner

  43. 5 out of 5

    Starhistnake

  44. 5 out of 5

    Tilde

  45. 5 out of 5

    Dina

  46. 4 out of 5

    My Tam

  47. 4 out of 5

    Diane C.

  48. 5 out of 5

    Jenn Ollivier

  49. 5 out of 5

    Terrence

  50. 4 out of 5

    Geraldine

  51. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

  52. 4 out of 5

    Ilaria

  53. 5 out of 5

    Yasmin

  54. 5 out of 5

    Jbondandrews

  55. 4 out of 5

    Izetta Autumn

  56. 4 out of 5

    Sara

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