Nina Simone (/ˈniːnə sɪˈmoʊn/; born Eunice Kathleen Waymon; February 21, 1933 – April 21, 2003 Tryon, NC) was an American singer, songwriter, pianist, arranger, and activist in the Civil Rights Movement. Simone employed a broad range of musical styles including classical, jazz, blues, folk, R&B, gospel, and pop.
Born in North Carolina, the sixth child of a preacher, Waymon aspired to be a concert pianist. With the help of a few supporters in her hometown of Tryon, North Carolina, she enrolled in the Juilliard School of Music in New York.
Waymon then applied for a scholarship to study at the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where she was denied admission despite a well-received audition. Waymon became fully convinced this rejection had been entirely due to racial discrimination. Years later, nine days before her death, the Curtis Institute of Music bestowed on her an honorary degree.
To make a living, Eunice Waymon changed her name to “Nina Simone”. The change related to her need to disguise herself from family members, having chosen to play “the devil’s music” or “cocktail piano” at a nightclub in Atlantic City. She was told in the nightclub that she would have to sing to her own accompaniment, and this effectively launched her career as a jazz vocalist.