An Activist Armed With an Alto: Why Nina Simone Ruled

by School of Doodle

Nina Simone, “The High Priestess of Soul,” used her hip hypnotic, lilting lows to transform the songbook standards into a jumble of jazz, blues, folk and gospel. An activist armed with an alto, Simone once said, “I’m a real rebel with a cause,” and she meant it. 1964’s Nina Simone In Concert signaled her stand for liberty and legitimacy and left an irrefutable imprint on the U.S. Civil Rights Movement.

Her rich, rooted vocals and finger finesse were firm in their need for freedom. Nina played in the fore of the few performers writing music with a message of social commentary and civic change. She paused before penning the protest music she found ho-hum and numb, but a burst of subversive brilliance came in the form of “Mississippi Goddam,” a swinging uptempo echo of both activist Medgar Evers’ assassination and an Alabama church bombing.

Her discography of uplifting upheaval breathed in that bewitching velvet voice left us a loud legacy of love, empowerment and enchantment. An artist who wanted people to feel on a deep level, we’ll feel her forever, that throaty float of Nina Simone.

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