On stage Nina Simone was known for her utterly free, uninhibited musical expression, which enthralled audiences and attracted life-long fans. But amid the violent, haunting, and senseless day-to-day of the civil rights era in 1960s America, Simone struggled to reconcile her artistic identity and ambition with her devotion to a movement. Culled from hours of autobiographical tapes, this new film unveils the unmitigated ego of a brilliant artist and the absurdities of her time. At the height of her fame Simone walked away from her family, country, career and fans, to move to Liberia and give up performing. The story of her life leading up to that event poses the question, 'how does royalty stomp around in the mud and still walk with grace?'
Written by Nina Simone
Published by WB Music Corp. (ASCAP)
Courtesy of Warner / Chappell Music, Inc.,
Performed by Nina Simone, Courtesy of The Verve Music Group
Under License from Universal Music Enterprises See more »
"What Happened, Miss Simone?" is a documentary that premiered on Netflix on June 26, 2015. It's about the life and times of singer and civil rights activist Nina Simone.
Using a vast array of archival footage and interviews with Miss Simone and those who knew her, the movie, Directed by Liz Garbus, paints an interesting picture of this singular talent. She started playing piano at four and performing in church at revivals, when she wanted to be the first black classical pianist to play professionally, music schools wouldn't take her - just because of the color of her skin. Nina went on to playing jazz in clubs and her unique style drew attention. She soon met her husband and manager Andrew Stroud - from there her life was filled with great heights and shattering lows. Nina's diary entries talked about spousal abuse, how she suffered from manic depression and how with her constant touring took a tole on her, saying she was being "worked like a dog" by her husband.
Things changed in 1963 when four little girls where killed in a racially instigated church bombing in Alabama. Nina wrote "Mississippi Goddamn" as a response and from then dedicated herself to civil rights for black Americans. This hurt her career commercially - a Harlem concert in 1969 with her singing "are you ready to smash white things, to kill if you have to" is very telling of the scorn and anger she felt against discrimination she had witnessed her whole life, as well as her passion for change.
The movie is a candid and honest telling of Nina's life, and in a revealing scene her daughter Lisa reveals that she was abused by her mother during their time living in Africa.
Nina Simone is a complex and fascinating woman, and this movie is a very revealing look at her life. It has enough interesting concert and interview footage from the fifties to the eighties to satiate returning fans, as well as give viewers new to her music the definitive look at the life of the "High Priestess of Soul"
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