Tag Archives: Nina Simone

Help Restore Nina Simone’s Childhood Home

From its birth, jazz has been at the intersection of race and social change. Nina Simone, the “High Priestess of Soul,” left a musical legacy that speaks to the current times. Indeed, the debate over segregationists, school busing and states’ rights harkens back to the days of “Old Jim Crow.”

The National Trust for Historic Preservation recently launched a crowdfunding campaign to restore Nina Simone’s childhood home in Tryon, North Carolina.

Your donation in any amount will help preserve Nina Simone’s story in public memory. For more information, please go here.

Vote for Nina Simone for Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

The High Priestess of Soul has been nominated for induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame:

Nina Simone’s unapologetic rage and accusatory voice named names and took no prisoners in the African-American struggle for equality in the early 1960s.

Her triumphant voice sang what it meant to be young, gifted and black in a sometimes unjust and troubled world.

Nina Simone is one of 19 nominees in the Class of 2018.

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

Information on the induction process is available here. Fans can vote for up to five nominees once a day. Voting is open through 11:59 p.m. on December 5.

As of this writing, Ms. Simone is trailing behind in fan votes.

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Current Standing

An unvarnished truth-teller, Nina Simone worked her magic “for the whole round world to hear.” Let’s show her the love that’s in our hearts. Vote early and often.

Queen Mary Room

The Queen Mary Room was located in the Rittenhouse Hotel.

Rittenhouse Hotel - Philly Records

In the spring of 1957, agent Jerry Field signed Nina Simone to perform here for $100 a week, later increased to $175. Circa December 1957, the legend-in-the-making recorded her debut album with Bethlehem Records, “Little Girl Blue.” The album tracks include “My Baby Just Cares for Me.”

Pep’s Musical Bar

Pep’s Musical Bar was one of Philadelphia’s most celebrated jazz spots. It brought in national jazz, blues, R&B and soul greats, including Aretha Franklin, Jimmy Rushing, Nina Simone, Dinah Washington and Yusef Lateef.

Pep's Collage

Pep's - Yuseef Lateef

Philly favorite John Coltrane frequently performed at Pep’s, including on September 18, 1964.

G. Bruce Boyer, a journalist and former editor for Town & Country shared the night he saw Nina Simone at the legendary club:

I remember seeing the great pianist-chanteuse Nina Simone at Pep’s Showbar at the corner of Broad and South Streets in South Philly in the early 60s. At that point the club had already been one of the great East Coast haunts for jazz performers and aficionados for two decades or more. Nat King Cole had played there, and so had Count Basie and Duke Ellington, Lester Young and Billie Holiday, Dinah Washington, Nancy Wilson, Thelonious Monk, and Jimmy Smith. Going to Pep’s was a jazz pilgrimage.

[…]

She was an incomparable artist and played much of that wonderful mix of music at her Pep’s engagement. Starting off with an extended version of the great blues “Trouble in Mind”, followed by a stirring, elegiac jazz/classical version of “You’d be so Nice to Come Home to.” Then some Ellington and more blues. The audience knew it would all lead up to “Porgy” for a grand finale.

About a half hour or so into the show she had gently just begun to swing into “My Baby Just Cares for Me”, when she suddenly stopped playing. Just stopped, her high-coiffed head bent over the keys and the sidemen trailing off. The place got quieter and quieter ’til you couldn’t even hear an ice cube clink in a glass; there was complete silence … except for two thugs at a table in the corner who had been talking. Another 30 seconds in that vacuum and they looked up too, and found Miss Simone glaring straight at them.

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The Mark of Jazz

From the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia:

From 1965 to 1975, Broadcast Pioneers member Sid Mark hosted a widely acclaimed television show, first carried by Philadelphia’s Channel 17, WPHL-TV and then later aired by WHYY-TV, Channel 12. “The Mark of Jazz” was THE broadcast of that era for jazz.

In an interview with All About Jazz, Sid Mark talked about Nina Simone:

SM: And one of the people I was actually responsible for when it came to her success was Nina Simone.

AAJ: I know that Nina spent some time in Philadelphia.

SM: She started her career in Philadelphia. In her autobiography, she said the reason for her success was a white Jewish disc jockey, Sid Mark. She said, “If I knew him today, I don’t know if I’d kiss him or smack him in the mouth!” (laughter.) That’s a quote. We had a hell of a relationship! By the way, did the tribute concert by her daughter ever take place?

AAJ: It was performed at Town Hall last year. From what I understand, it was extremely successful.

SM: I love that picture of the two of them together.

AAJ: She’s been very active in promoting Nina’s legacy.

SM: Nina was something else. We had hours of discussions on the numerous radio and TV shows we did together. When I discovered her, she was just playing piano at a little joint in Philly at 22nd and Chestnut. It was a bar, and she wasn’t singing, just playing the piano.

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Curtis Institute of Music

The Curtis Institute of Music is a conservatory located in Rittenhouse Square. According to U.S. News & World Report, it has the lowest acceptance rate of any college or university (3.2%), making it the most selective institution of higher education in the United States.

The Institute’s most celebrated rejected applicant is Nina Simone who was denied admission even though she had given classical piano recitals since age 10. Jazz.com reported:

At the age of seventeen, Simone moved to New York to take classes at the Juilliard School of Music in New York. She then moved with her family to Philadelphia, where she auditioned for the city’s prestigious Curtis Institute, a conservatory of classical music.

Simone sought the help of a private instructor to help her audition for the Curtis Institute, but was ultimately denied after a supposedly excellent audition. Simone said she later found out from an insider at Curtis that she was denied entry because she was black. This heightened her anger over the racism which was pervasive in the United States during this period.

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NB: The Curtis Institute awarded Nina Simone an Honorary Doctor in Music and Humanities two days before her death in 2003.