The High Priestess of Soul!
Eunice Kathleen Waymon initially aspired to be a classical concert pianist.
After attending Julliard, she applied to the Curtis Institute Of Music in Philadelphia but was denied a scholarship.
To make ends meet, she took a job as a cocktail pianist at a nightclub in Atlantic City and to avoid shaming her family for “playing the devil’s music”, changed her name to Nina Simone.
The nightclub didn’t think Nina playing the piano was enough and asked her to sing as well. As this increased her weekly pay, she accepted.
As Stephen Hawking famously said: Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change!
With a steady gig, Nina Simone was now in a situation where she could develop into one of the most recognised jazz singers the world had ever seen.
I’m 1957, at the age of 24, she recorded Little Girl Blue: Jazz as Played in an Exclusive Side Street Club on the record label Bethlehem. It would take two years before it was released.
During the wait, she signed to a different label (Colpix) and released The Amazing Nina Simone the same year, 1959.
Much has been said about the two albums regarding why the first was so successful. Some claim it was down to it being more about the piano, the second about the voice with strings.
Nina signed away all the rights for the first to collect $3000, so maybe the label had a bigger incentive to market it.
But to me, it is so obvious why the first album did so well; it had better tunes!
On her debut album we find My Baby Just Care For Me (which would become Nina Simone’s signature song decades later), but also Mood Indigo, Don’t Smoke In Bed, the title track Little Girl Blue, Love Me or Leave Me, You’ll Never Walk Alone, and I Love You Porgy. This is almost like a Nina Simone Greatest Hits!
Only Stompin’ At The Savoy is a big tune on the second album. All songs that stand out on both albums are covers by the way…
Nina Simone becomes a household name
As we enter the ‘60s, Nina Simone is already scarred by the music industry after signing away the rights and royalties and now sings pop songs only to “make money”. Her beliefs that classical music is better are now seemingly as strong as her family had believed all along.
The singles released from that first album started appearing in the early ‘60s alongside other classics such as Summertime, Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out, Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood, Feeling Good, I Put A Spell On You, Aint Got No, I Got You (from the musical Hair), Suzanne (Leonard Cohen), Here Comes The Sun (The Beatles), and My Sweet Lord (George Harrison).
Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood was specifically written for Nina, but The Animals had an even more successful version in 1965. Elvis Costello released his version in 1986.
In 1987, Chanel No. 5 used My Baby Just Cares For Me in their advertisement, triggering a re-release of her debut album and the tune as a single.
As she’d already been bought out of all the rights back in 1957, she didn’t get paid now either. It’s estimated she lost out on over $1 million in royalties because of that initial $3000 payment back in 1957.
Still, the re-release of her debut did bring her back into the public consciousness and her gigs became bigger because of it, especially in the U.K.
This resurrection of a tune through an ad happened to another band a few years later. The Clash had their to-be signature song re-released after it featured in a Levi’s Jeans ad, Should I Stay Or Should I Go. When they released it the first time around, it didn’t do well either.
Nina Simone tunes | Related pages
My Baby Just Cares For Me
You can learn how to play My Baby Just Cares For Me by Nina Simone using chords, lyrics, chord analysis, TAB, and the original recording.
| A /G# /F# /E | D /C# /B /E |
My baby don’t care for shows…
You can learn how to play Summertime by Billie Holiday using chords, lyrics, chord analysis, and the original recording.
| Bbm7 F7b9/C | Db6 F7b9/C | Bbm7 F7b9/C | Db6 F7b9/C |
Summertime and the living is easy…