5 Times The Legendary Nina Simone Said What She Said With No Apologies

March 5, 2022

“I’ll tell you what freedom is to me: no fear.”

One of the most astonishing artists of her time, Nina Simone brought soul, liberation, and encouragement to American music during the twentieth century. Born Eunice Kathleen Waymon in Tryon, NC in 1933, she fell in love with music at an early age, learning to play the piano by ear. She went on to record more than 90 jazz and classical albums between the 1950s and 1970s, and not once was Simone hesitant to use her music to tell it like it is.

But just how outspoken was Simone?

Here are five times Simone kept it real with her stance on the importance of Black empowerment, culture, and authenticity.

During an interview, Simone corrected the interviewer’s question after asking about her influence on younger generations. “I think what you’re trying to ask is why am I so insistent upon giving out to them that BLACKNESS, that BLACK POWER, that Black, pushing them to identify with Black culture…I think that’s what you’re asking. I have no choice over it in the first place. To me, we are the most beautiful creatures in the whole world.” 

When oppression was at an all-time high, Simone took her stance through her music, using an intense style and edgy voice. While discussing her involvement during the civil rights movement, she said, “I felt more alive then than I feel now. Because I was needed, and I could sing something to help my people. And that became the mainstay of my life. It became most important to me—not classical piano, not classical music, not even popular music. But civil rights music.”

Simone always showed up authentically. She said, “My thing, what I hope to do all the time, is to be so completely myself, which—that’s what I hope I am—to be so much myself that my audience or any people that meet me are confronted. They’re confronted with what I am, inside and out, as honest as I can be. And this way, that have to see things about themselves, immediately.”

In Peter Rodis’ “Nina: An Historical Perspective,” Simone said about her musical focus, “Everybody is half dead. Everybody avoids everybody. All over the place, in most situations, almost all of the time. I know, I’m one of those ‘everybody’s.’ And to me, it is terrible. And so all I’m trying to do all the time is just open people up so they can feel themselves and let themselves be open to somebody else.”

Resonating Simone’s career was her blatant honesty. She was known for “keeping it real,” without sugar-coating—whether it be about the Civil Rights Movement or working in the entertainment industry.

During an interview with Mavis Nicholson, Nicholson asked her about feeling fed up with how much she had to “give out.” Simone responded, “I love being on stage. I love playing in clubs. But I’m simply tired of not being paid for it!” She then said, “I’m too old to keep asking for love from the industry.