Born Nina Simone Catherine Waymon, Nina was a singer, songwriter and a civil rights activist. She recorded more than 40 albums between 1947 and 1958.
Many of her songs address the racial inequality in the United States. Her song “Mississippi goddamn” was in response to the killing of civil rights leader Medgar Evers and the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church, where four young black girls were killed. “(It’s) like throwing 10 bullets back at them,” said Simone, about her protest song, according to Wikipedia.
Simone was a classical pianist with a low jazz-like singing voice that accompanied her protest music. “Old Jim Crow” was another song on the same album titled “Nina Simone in Concert (1964)”. The song challenged race relations— “me and my people are just about due,” said Simone.
Her songs were protested in the South and her albums were smashed. She spoke and performed at civil rights meetings. She was also a friend and supported Malcolm X. She sang, “Blacklash Blues” written by Langston Hughes, her friend of and leader of the Harlem Renaissance.
In 1967, she recorded “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to be Free” and “Turning Point” on her “Silk and Soul” album. A year later, she sang “Why (The King of Love is Dead)” a song she dedicated to Martin Luther King, Jr. after he was assassinated. The song is on the album ‘Nuff Said!”. On her album, Black Gold (1970), Simone and Weldon Irvine turned the Lorraine Hansberry play “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” into a Civil Rights song.
Simone credited Hansberry for cultivating her social and political consciousness. After enduring discrimination from music schools, an abusive husband, and not benefiting financially from her album sales. Nina Simone is still the icon of protest music.