Simone, who was one of the most iconic artists of the 20th century, first began her career in 1958 with the song "I Loves You Porgy" from George and Ira Gershwin's Porgy and Bess. She went on to record over 40 albums before her death in 2003. Beyond being an iconic performer, Simone was also an outspoken civil rights advocate--never failing to speak her mind.
In the liner notes for To Be Free: The Nina Simone Story, Ed Ward wrote:
Nina Simone was one of those controversial figures American pop music puts forward from time to time. To see this African-American woman get angry about the racial situation in her country, right there on stage, was a shock to people who’d come to hear her sing 'I Loves You, Porgy.' Not that she cared; she figured that it was the artist’s job to deliver the truth, and if the truth hurt, so be it. Of course, events wound up proving her right, but she never stopped being prickly about one thing or another. It was just part of who she was, and part of why her music has endured while that of some of her contemporaries has faded: she’s still contemporary.
Celebrate the legacy of the great Nina Simone. She would have been 80 today.