The Extraordinary Life of Nina Simone was Tragic and Empowering
The Extraordinary Life of Nina Simone was Tragic and Empowering

The Extraordinary Life of Nina Simone was Tragic and Empowering

Tim Flight - September 16, 2019

The Extraordinary Life of Nina Simone was Tragic and Empowering
Nina performing in her adopted homeland, France, in May 1982. Wikimedia Commons

3. Nina suffered from mental illness, and wasn’t diagnosed until the 1980s

Like many other talented people, Nina suffered from bipolar disorder. This explains much of her erratic behaviour onstage and her treatment of Lisa, but sadly she was not diagnosed until the mid-1980s. She also likely had PTSD from her abusive second marriage. Nina lived for years with these conditions, completely un-medicated and untreated, and it was only after her death in 2003 that they came to light. Her fits of anger were misogynistically ascribed to her being a ‘diva’ during her life, but it is sad to note that many of Nina’s symptoms still define what makes a diva today.

The Extraordinary Life of Nina Simone was Tragic and Empowering
An 8-foot high statue of Nina at the Plaza named after her in Tryon, NC. Blogspot

2. In 2003, Nina died peacefully in her sleep after losing a battle with breast cancer

Nina’s career plummeted to the point that she once again played at bars and cafes (this time in Paris) for low sums of money. However, her career was reinvigorated in the 1980s after she received mental health treatment and began performing at bigger venues. Her role in the Civil Rights movement also won the great respect it deserved and her back catalogue was reassessed and finally won critical acclaim. In the late 1990s, however, Nina was struck down with breast cancer, and after a battle lasting a few years she died two months after her 70th birthday in 2003.

The Extraordinary Life of Nina Simone was Tragic and Empowering
Films such as this 2015 documentary are ensuring a new generation are exposed to Nina’s music. IMDB

1. Her posthumous reputation is stronger than ever

Nina’s ashes were scattered in several African countries, but as is often the case with celebrity deaths, this ending was a beginning. For Nina is now more popular than ever, with all manner of musicians paying homage to her music and the more controversial episodes in her life being re-examined. Numerous biographies have been written about her and her amazing story has recently been immortalised in film. In 2015, two documentaries were released about Nina’s life, What Happened, Miss Simone? and The Amazing Nina Simone, and the following year a biopic entitled Nina starring Zoe Saldana was also released.

 

Where did we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

Chandler, Adam. “What Happened to Nina Simone?”. The Atlantic, June 27, 2015.

Cohodas, Nadine. Princess Noire: The Tumultuous Reign of Nina Simone. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2012.

Keepnews, Peter. “Nina Simone, 70, Soulful Diva and Voice of Civil Rights, Dies”. The New York Times, April 22, 2003.

Light, Alan. What Happened, Miss Simone? A Biography. New York: Random House, 2016.

Pierpont, Claudia Roth. “A Raised Voice: How Nina Simone Turned the Movement into Music”. The New Yorker, August 3, 2014.

Simone, Nina, and Stephen Cleary. I Put a Spell on You: The Autobiography of Nina Simone. London: Penguin, 2003.

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