Nina Simone: 15 Things You Didn’t Know (Part 1)

Nina Simone has one of the most identifiable and singular voices of the 20th century. She is also known as a one of the more volatile singers in her time. Nonetheless, her music made an indelible mark on American culture. But given all of that, her personal story is not all that well-known today. This list will help change that for you.

Number Fifteen: She Changed Her Name Because of Her Mother. Nina Simone started out in her musical career playing piano at a restaurant in Atlantic City, New Jersey. She began to hone her unique style here. But because of the jazz and blues influences on her music – and the fact that she was playing in AC – she wanted to hide her professional from her mother. So she changed her name from Eunice Waymon to the name we all know her by now.

Number Fourteen: She Was Born During the Depression. Nina Simone was born in 1933, during one of the most trying economic times in the history of the United States.

Number Thirteen: She is the Daughter of a Minister. Being a preacher’s daughter, she was brought up being involved in the Methodist faith. But surprisingly, it was Simone’s mother who was the minister. Nina Simone began her musical education performing in her mother’s church.

Number Twelve: She is One of Eight Children. And despite the fact that both of her parents held fairly steady jobs, they grew up poor.

Number Eleven: She is a Product of Tryon, North Carolina. Though she got her real musical start in Atlantic City, Nina Simone was a southern girl first. Growing up in the south, she experienced segregation firsthand.

Number Ten: She Witnessed Racism From an Early Age. During a piano recital at the age of 12, her parents were seated in the first row to watch their daughter play. But when the music hall became fuller, her parents were forced to move in the back, their seats given to whites.

Number Nine: Her Singing Voice is Contralto. It’s the lowest female vocal range in all of classical singing. This is the end of the Nina Simone list for now, but check back for the second half, coming soon!