Nina Simone: 15 Things You Didn’t Know (Part 2)

Nina Simone had a long and illustrious career. So it’s no surprise that there’s plenty of information to learn about her. But on top of her longevity, she also led a challenging and sometimes very exciting existence. Welcome to part two of this list with even more interesting facts about her life.

Number Eight: She Aspired to Be a Classical Pianist. This would seem like an ambitious dream for anyone, but for a black female singer and music who grew up in the 1940’s, this was particularly ambitious. She didn’t just dream, though. She pursued it: when she was rejected from the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia because she was black, she persisted, eventually studying at Julliard in New York City.

Number Seven: Classical Music Was a Big Influence on Her. Nina Simone was something of a prodigious pianist, learning from the age of three. Classical music was taught to her from a young age. She was quoted as saying, “This Bach, I liked him!”

Number Six: Her Second Husband Was a Cop Before Becoming a Producer. When she met him, Andrew Stroud was a New York City cop. But soon after they fell in love, he left his job there to become her manager full time as well as a producer.

Number Five: Her Breakout Hit Was “I Love You Porgy.” The song, from George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, put Nina Simone at the forefront of American popular music. It rose to the very top of the Billboard charts when released in 1958.

Number Four: She Was Addicted to Pills in the Height of Her Career. Between the pressure of being a sudden superstar and the fact that her husband Andrew Stroud was a violent abuser, Nina Simone turned to sleeping pills (among others) to get by.

Number Two: She Was Malcolm X’s Neighbor. She lived right next door to the Civil Rights leader in Mount Vernon, New York. She agreed with his approach to the movement, as well, once approaching Martin Luther King, Jr. and saying “I am not non-violent!”

Number One: She Performed at the Famous March in Selma. She sang “Mississippi Goddam” at the March in Alabama. The event was a turning point in the Civil Rights movement, and it was made a little more public thanks to her presence.