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Nina Simone Dies

Jazz singer/pianist was seventy

April 21, 2003 12:00 PM ET

Nina Simone, whose legendary singing career touched on jazz, folk, pop, blues, R&B and gospel, died at her home in France today; she was seventy.

Born Eunice Waymon on February 21, 1933 in Tryon, North Carolina, Simone got her start singing in church and taught herself to play piano and organ by age seven. She attended New York's prestigious Julliard School of Music, before playing gigs along the East Coast. In 1959 she scored her biggest hit, and only charting pop single, with a version of George Gershwin's "I Loves You Porgy" from Porgy and Bess, which reached as high as Number Eighteen.

Though she didn't chart again, Simone remained popular throughout the Sixties, and recorded some of her most enduring songs during that decade, several of which became anthems for the Civil Rights movement. Simone's first protest song, "Mississippi Goddam," was inspired by the death of activist Medgar Evers.

The mid-Seventies were a difficult period during which Simone's audience began to decrease, and she retired from making music and relocated to Switzerland, the U.K. and other locations. She returned in 1978 with the release of Baltimore and recorded and toured sporadically afterwards. A 1987 perfume commercial that used her recording of "My Baby Just Cares for Me" rekindled interest in Simone's music, and Pete Townshend enlisted her to sing on 1989's The Iron Man, his musical based on the children's book by Ted Hughes.

In 1993 she relocated to the south of France, and that same year she released her last studio recording, A Single Woman.

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