Documentary Review - What Happened, Miss Simone?
Going through her full repertoire of best-known songs, some never-before-heard recordings and a precious collection of archival footage, this documentary presents the life and the story of one of the most influential singers and activists of modern times.
Ladies and gentlemen…Nina Simone!
Nina Simone, born Eunice Kathleen Waymon, was born in Tryon, North Carolina on February 21st, 1933. This enormously talented artist showed her music inclinations when she was only 3 years old, when she started playing piano by ear. Quite impressive for such a young girl! Daughter of a Methodist minister and a preacher, she started to broadly express her “divine” gift very soon, playing piano in her mother`s church, and showing the desire to become a classical pianist.
Her first concert took place when she was twelve, and, unluckily, was accompanied with her first, but not last, experience of race biases and intolerance. Her parents, sitting in the front line, were forced to move to the back because they were black. Refusing to start playing until her parents moved back to the front, Nina Simone marked her passionate involvement in the civil rights movement. But her musical path was meant to be changed. Later on, despite her preparation and a brilliant performance, she was rejected from the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. It didn`t take long for her to understand that this rejection was due to the fact that she was black.
Instead of letting herself be pushed away by racial discrimination, Nina Simone rolled up her sleeves and started teaching piano and playing in small clubs in order to fund her private piano lessons.
It was then that Eunice became Nina Simone (a fake name to avoid her mother knowing what she was doing for living) and approached a completely different kind of music, adding singing to her playing, shifting from a traditional and classical way of playing to a more modern conception, injecting her classical studies into a newer and gripping music style.
Her first record, “I Loves You, Porgy”, by Bethlehem Records, became a hit in 1958, and was followed by more than 40 albums in the next few decades.
After this initial success “Little Blue Girl” was recorded, this documentary goes on describing her indifferent attitude toward the record industry, her troubled relationship with Andrew Stroud, her husband and manager, and her civil rights defendant temperament, which from the 1960s became an indisputable part of her live performances.
Volatile, thought provoking, resolute and just great: Nina Simone “lived a life of brutal honesty, musical genius, and tortured melancholy”.