Nina Simone LIVE at Ronnie Scott’s (1985)
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Nina Simone – vocals, piano Paul Robinson – drums
This video features Nina Simone (vocals, piano) delivering an intense emotional performance at the legendary Ronnie Scott’s in Soho, London on November 17, 1985. Simone is considered to be one of the most diverse singers of the 20th century, recording material in multiple genres including soul, jazz, pop, blues, gospel, and Broadway.
Most often labeled a “soul” singer due to her emotional performing tendencies, Simone is an eclectic musician, who adds a soulful mystique to whatever material she interprets. This brilliant performance at Ronnie Scott’s is testament to this fact.
Ronnie Scott’s opened in 1959 to provide a place where British Jazz musicians could jam. Eventually, American music musicians such as Johnny Griffin, Roland Kirk, Al Cohn, Stan Getz, Sony Stitt, Benny Golson, Donald Byrd, and Ben Webster played at the club making it the legendary Jazz club it is today. Today, the club still books the greatest Jazz acts in the world, but also plays host to such diverse musicians as the talented Nina Simone.
1 God God God
2 Just In Time
3 Let It Be Me
4 The Other Woman
5 I Got Life
6 If You Only Knew
7 Young Gifted And Black
8 Moon Over Alabama / Mississippi Goddam
9 Because / My Father’s Dream
10 Let No One Deceive You
11 American Pie
12 Just To Know That I’m Alive
Eunice Kathleen Waymon (February 21, 1933 – April 21, 2003), known professionally as Nina Simone, was an American singer, songwriter, musician, arranger, and civil rights activist. Her music spanned a broad range of musical styles including classical, jazz, blues, folk, R&B, gospel, and pop.
The sixth of eight children born to a poor family in Tryon, North Carolina, Simone initially aspired to be a concert pianist. With the help of a few supporters in her hometown, she enrolled in the Juilliard School of Music in New York City. She then applied for a scholarship to study at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where she was denied admission despite a well-received audition, which she attributed to racial discrimination. In 2003, just days before her death, the Institute awarded her an honorary degree.
To make a living, Simone started playing piano at a nightclub in Atlantic City. She changed her name to “Nina Simone” to disguise herself from family members, having chosen to play “the devil’s music” or so-called “cocktail piano”. She was told in the nightclub that she would have to sing to her own accompaniment, which effectively launched her career as a jazz vocalist. She went on to record more than 40 albums between 1958 and 1974, making her debut with Little Girl Blue. She had a hit single in the United States in 1958 with “I Loves You, Porgy“. Her musical style fused gospel and pop with classical music, in particular Johann Sebastian Bach, and accompanied expressive, jazz-like singing in her contralto voice.
Simone was the recipient of a Grammy Hall of Fame Award in 2000 for her interpretation of “I Loves You, Porgy.” On Human Kindness Day 1974 in Washington, D.C., more than 10,000 people paid tribute to Simone. Simone received two honorary degrees in music and humanities, from Amherst College and Malcolm X College. She preferred to be called “Dr. Nina Simone” after these honors were bestowed upon her. She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2018.
Two days before her death, Simone learned she would be awarded an honorary degree by the Curtis Institute of Music, the music school that had refused to admit her as a student at the beginning of her career.
Simone has received four career Grammy Award nominations, two during her lifetime and two posthumously. In 1968, she received her first nomination for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance for the track “(You’ll) Go to Hell” from her thirteenth album Silk & Soul (1967). The award went to “Respect” by Aretha Franklin.
Simone garnered a second nomination in the category in 1971, for her Black Gold album, when she again lost to Franklin for “Don’t Play That Song (You Lied)“. Franklin would again win for her cover of Simone’s Young, Gifted and Black two years later in the same category which Simone’s Black Gold album was nominated and features Simone’s original version of “Young, Gifted and Black”. In 2016, Simone posthumously received a nomination for Best Music Film for the Netflix documentary What Happened, Miss Simone? and in 2018 she received a nomination for Best Rap Song as a songwriter for Jay Z‘s “The Story of O.J.” from his 4:44 album which contained a sample of “Four Women” by Simone.
In 2018, Simone was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by fellow R&B artist Mary J. Blige.
In 2019, “Mississippi Goddam” was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Recording Registry for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.
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