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Eunice Kathleen Waymon

Also Known As: "Nina Simone", "Priestess of Soul"
Birthplace: Tryon, Polk County, North Carolina, United States
Death: April 21, 2003 (70)
Carry-le-Rouet, Bouches-du-Rhône, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, France (Deceased in her sleep. Had been ill with breast cancer previously.)
Place of Burial: Ashes scattered in several African countries
Immediate Family:

Daughter of John Divine Waymon and Mary Kate Waymon
Ex-wife of Donald Ross and Andrew Bernard Stroud
Ex-partner of Erroll Walton Barrow and Clifton Henderson
Mother of Private
Sister of Lucile Waymon; Floretta E. Davis; John Irvin Waymon; Private; Lucille Julia Waddell and 8 others

Occupation: American singer, songwriter, pianist, arranger, and civil rights activist.
Managed by: Erica Howton
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Nina Simone

Dr. Nina Simone was born 21 February 1933 in Tryon, North Carolina and died 21 April 2003 in Carry-le-Rouet, Bouches-du-Rhône, France. Her birth name was Eunice Kathleen Waymon and she was also known as Eunice Wayman. Nicknames include the Priestess of Soul, the Queen of the Blues, the Princess Noire, and the High Priestess of Song.

Known for:

  • Composed over 500 songs, recorded almost 60 albums
  • First woman to win the Jazz Cultural Award
  • "Woman of the Year" 1966, Jazz at Home Club
  • Female Jazz Singer of the Year, 1967, National Association of Television and Radio Announcers


Parents: sixth of the eight children of John D Waymon (1898-1972) and Mary Kate Irvin (1902-around 2000), an ordained Methodist minister.[1][2]


  1. in 1958 to Don Ross; marriage ended in divorce in 1959. He was a "beatnik who worked as a fairground barker." [14]
  2. in 1961 to Andrew Stroud; marriage ended in divorce in 1970. He was a New York police detective who became her manager. [17]


  1. around 1971: "Simone stayed in Barbados for quite some time and she had a lengthy affair with the first Prime Minister of Barbados" Errol Barrow (21 January 1920 – 1 June 1987) [25][26]

Child of Andy Stroud and Nina Simone:

  1. Lisa Celeste Stroud (known professionally as Simone and also known as Lisa Simone Kelly) born September 12, 1962


every appearance is legendary

In 1993, Don Shewey wrote of Nina Simone in the Village Voice, [8]

"She's not a pop singer, she's a diva, a hopeless eccentric ... who has so thoroughly co-mingled her odd talent and brooding temperament that she has turned herself into a force of nature, an exotic creature spied so infrequently that every appearance is legendary."

They say everything can be replaced. They say every distance is not near. So I remember every face of every man who put me here. Any day now, any day now, I shall be released.

Nina Simone has gone, her light shining from the west down to the east. But here she is still, singing in my study with the rain hitting the windows, her unmistakable voice carving and denting the air.

When people as talented as Nina Simone die, you think they will never be replaced, that their talent is a thing of the past. You can tell Bessie from Billie, Ella from Dinah and you know Nina right away. But how many distinct voices follow you around like hers for life? Haunting you, hanging in the air long after you've fallen out of love?

She had a way of singing that made you think she had experienced everything she sang about, that she got the blues most every night. She had a way of understanding everything that the world hurled at her: love, death, racism.

Nina Simone never forgot herself and because she never forget herself, she remembered us all. Her beautiful voice is still lifting and soaring and is outside the window, now flying, a black bird in the blue rain.

her voice has the tendency to make me cry on onset

There have been phases in my life where Nina Simone’s music was banned in my house because her voice has the tendency to make me cry on onset.

I heard some Nina Simone music growing up from my father the jazz head's records. But it wasn't until the 1990s that I learned just what a talent "you know, I'm a doctor of music" Nina Simone really was. "Niiiiii- naaaa" - "goddamn!" was a favorite among the "professional" musicians (read: broke) I fell in with. They were in love with her voice. They smoked many cigarettes to emulate her voice. To them and soon to me, "the doctor" had the cure for whatever ailed you. A friend struggling with a little too much fondness for the substances, not sure what to do and who to be angry at? Maybe you need to give a listen to "The Pusher." Need, in fact, to "push on" yourself? Play "It's a new dawn." Feeling a bit defiant, perhaps? "What You Gonna Do?" Feeling a bit more defiant? Moving on into a Weill & Brecht kind of "don't mess with me oh no sir," sardonic mood? "Pirate Jenny" hits the spot:

  • (1928) Bertolt Brecht, Kurt Weill
  • You people can watch while I'm scrubbing these floors
  • And I'm scrubbin' the floors while you're gawking
  • Maybe once ya tip me and it makes ya feel swell
  • In this crummy Southern town
  • In this crummy old hotel
  • But you'll never guess to who you're talkin'.
  • No. You couldn't ever guess to who you're talkin'.

Need a little courage, maybe listing your body parts is the thing to do.

I did learn that her later years were kind of a mess -- exiled, often broke, mental illness perhaps. I don't really buy the association between "genius" and "madness." Maybe she was living out the song she co-wrote with The Animals: “Baby, understand me now, if sometimes you see that I’m mad, Oh lord please don’t let me be misunderstood.” Maybe it was getting ripped off by the record companies and losing out on royalties. [2] Maybe it was PTSD from being turned down by the Curtis Institute. Maybe it was bad love affairs, or racism, or just a hard, hard life. [4]

Or maybe? "She was just ... bold." [4]

But today I learned that her family carries on her extraordinary musical legacy. Her daughter Simone launched a new website Nina Simone Official Website: Nina Simone lovers, friends, and family for Mother's Day, 2011. On it she wrote:

While others were in awe of my mother, to me, Dr Nina Simone will always be “Mommy”; plain and simple…. They say ‘the more things change, the more they stay the same’. Considering I am walking so closely in my mother’s footsteps, that adage certainly applies, yet the subtle differences between Mommy’s time and mine are vast. The best of her lives on in me and when I pass on, the best of us will live on in my little girl as she carries on the Legacy. Simone.

Simone -- goddamn! You made me cry.







of interest


  1. Simone's mother, Mary Kate Waymon (who lived into her late 90s), was a strict Methodist minister and a housemaid. Simone's father, John Divine Waymon, was a handyman who at one time owned a dry-cleaning business, but who also suffered bouts of ill health. Mary Kate's employer, hearing of Nina's talent, provided funds for piano lessons. Subsequently, a local fund was set up to assist in Simone's continued education. With the assistance of this scholarship money she attended high school. ( Simone & Cleary 2003, p. 21)
  2. Before Nina Simone arrived, there was Eunice Waymon, born in Tryon, N.C., in 1933, the sixth of eight children. Her father, J. D. Waymon, was a jack-of-all-trades entrepreneur, and her mother, Kate, was a domestic worker whose primary vocation was preaching the Gospel. Eunice was just a small child when she started playing piano in church. Cohodas (author of "Princess Noire:The Tumultuous Reign of Nina Simone," 2010) paints a complex picture of Tryon and its environs, a community ruled by Jim Crow but with a color line porous enough for the Waymons to live fairly comfortably and for young Eunice to take piano lessons from Muriel Mazzanovich, known affectionately as Miss Mazzy. Nina Simone, Diva Out of Carolina Published: February 25, 2010
  3. Eunice continued her music studies at the Allen School, a private high school for black girls in Asheville, probably with the support of white benefactors. NYT, ibid.
  4. Upon graduation, she took classes at Juilliard and worked long hours to prepare for her audition to the prestigious Curtis Institute in Philadelphia. She was rejected, her dream of becoming a concert pianist crushed. In Simone’s eyes, the school’s rebuff was a racial slight. While Cohodas quotes a Curtis faculty member, Vladimir Sokoloff, who suggests Simone simply wasn’t up to the task, she is unwilling to admit that Si­mone’s piano skills were less than brilliant. She may have been the greatest prodigy to come out of Tryon’s black community, but in New York City pianists of her caliber were plentiful. NYT, ibid.
  5. To survive, she began teaching music to local students. One fateful day in 1954, looking to supplement her income, Eunice auditioned to sing at the Midtown Bar & Grill on Pacific Avenue in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Word spread about this new singer and pianist who was dipping into the songbooks of Gershwin, Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers, and the like, transforming popular tunes of the day into a unique synthesis of jazz, blues, and classical music. Her rich, deep velvet vocal tones, combined with her mastery of the keyboard, soon attracted club goers up and down the East Coast. In order to hide the fact that she was singing in bars, Eunice’s mother would refer to the practice as “working in the fires of hell”, overnight Eunice Waymon became Nina Simone by taking the nickname “Nina” meaning “little one” in Spanish and “Simone” after the actress Simone Signoret. The Official Nina Simone Website: Biography page
  6. To fund her private lessons, Simone performed at the Midtown Bar & Grill on Pacific Avenue in Atlantic City, whose owner insisted that she sing as well as play the piano. In 1954 she adopted the stage name Nina Simone. "Nina" (from niña, meaning 'little girl' in Spanish) was a nickname a boyfriend had given to her, and "Simone" was taken from the French actress Simone Signoret, whom she had seen in the movie, Casque d'or.[12] (Brun-Lambert 2006, p. 56)
  7. Simone's mixture of jazz, blues, and classical music in her performances at the bar earned her a small, but loyal, fan base.[13] (Simone & Cleary 2003, pp. 48–52)
  8. Nina Simone's four-show engagement at Swing Plaza June 3 and 4 (1993) was just such an occasion, and for many years Simoniacs will exchange stories about the night she muttered, "Porgy is a cripple, I don't like cripples" and the night she gave in and sang the damn song for which she is best-known. There is always a question of whether she will sing at all. She has been known to collapse from nerves and to launch half-hour tirades about not getting paid. There's also the danger that the IRS will collar her for back taxes; Saturday night the Feds did show up and confiscated most of Simone's take for the weekend. Wonder if they got the $5 contributions to the Society for the Preservation of Nina Simone, which was in the lobby. Late show Friday she was brilliant and bizarre. The things that stick are the physical details. She arrived through the audience waving a bouquet, wearing a one-shouldered cotton flowered-print gown with matching pants and a blossom in the topknot of her cornrowed hair. Onstage she sat painstakingly separating the roses from the baby's breath like Jack Smith fiddling with the curtains and then pulled off the heads of the roses, strewing the petals on the floor and kicking the stems offstage. In the middle of songs she would drift from the microphone to the piano bench, stopping to raise the piano lid, once even lapsing into a weirdly beautiful and muscular interpretive dance. Between songs she flitted into the wings or sat at the piano mute and statuesque, paralyzed between anger and terror at the audience, at the world, at life. Le Petit Mort de Nina Simone
  9. Simone missed out on more than a million dollars in royalties (mainly because of the successful re-release of "My Baby Just Cares for Me" during the 1980s) and never benefited financially from the album, because she had sold her rights to it for $3,000.[15]. Simone. I Put a Spell on You. pp. 60.
  10. Nina Simone probably suffered from bipolar disorder. Her biographers Sylvia Hampton and David Nathan revealed her battle with the disease in their 2004 book, Break Down And Let It All Out. She was prone to flying into rages and was labeled a "difficult diva." In her autobiography, I Put A Spell On You, Simone admits to trying to seduce Louis Farrakhan.
  11. For her last year of high school, Nina Simone attended Juilliard School of Music, as part of her plan to prepare to attend the Curtis Institute of Music. She took the entrance exam for the Curtis Institute's classical piano program, but was not accepted. Nina Simone believed that she was good enough for the program, but that she was rejected because she was black. Women's History: Nina Simone: pianist, singer
  12. "Nina Simone...she's, she's just done so much. I don't know much about her life but that doesn't bother me, because I've learnt so much about her through her material. She's so vulnerable. And I can really relate to that. A lot of her songs are about being fallible. She's a really dysfunctional person. And dysfunctional people are attracted to each other. I guess that's why I am attracted to her. We both had a rough life. She's familiar." Elizabeth Frazer, Cocteau Twins, as quoted on Nina Simone Web.
  14. Simone, Nina, and Stephen Cleary. I Put a Spell On You: the Autobiography of Nina Simone. 2003 edition, as cited by Wikipedia.
  15. L'hommage: Nina Simone Biography retrieved 18 May 2011.
  16. Simone & Cleary 2003, pp. 129–134
  17. Brun-Lambert 2006, p. 231
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Nina Simone's Timeline

February 21, 1933
Tryon, Polk County, North Carolina, United States
September 1945
Age 12
Allen High School, Asheville, North Carolina, United States
July 3, 1950
Age 17
Juilliard School of Music, New York, New York, United States
August 1950
- September 1, 1950
Age 17
The Curtis Institute of Music, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States

Nina Simone was rejected from The Curtis Institute of Music.

April 21, 2003
Age 70
Carry-le-Rouet, Bouches-du-Rhône, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, France