Tagged with "songwriter"
Singer, songwriter, pianist, arranger, and civil rights activist - Nina Simone
Category: Voices of Jazz
Tags: singer songwriter pianist arranger and civil rights activist nina simone word life production new quality entertainment

Born on February 21, 1933, in Tryon, North Carolina, Nina Simone received a scholarship to study classical piano at the Juilliard School in New York City, but left early when she ran out of money. She turned her interest to jazz, blues and folk music and released her first album in 1958. In the 60s, she became identified as the voice of the civil rights and wrote songs about the movement. She died in France on April 21, 2003.

Early Life

Born Eunice Kathleen Waymon on February 21, 1933, in Tryon, North Carolina, Nina Simone took to music at an early age, learning to play piano at the age of 4 and singing in her church's choir. The sixth of seven children, Simone grew up poor. Her music teacher helped establish a special fund to pay for Simone's education and, after finishing high school, Simone won a scholarship to New York City's famed Juilliard School of Music to train as a classical pianist.

Simone taught piano and worked as a accompanist for other performers while at Juilliard, but she eventually had to leave school after she ran out of funds. Moving to Philadelphia, Simone lived with her family there in order to save money and go to a more affordable music program. Her career took an unexpected turn, however, when she was rejected from the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia; she later claimed the school denied her admittance because she was African-American. Turning away from classical music, she started playing American standards, jazz and blues in clubs in the 1950s. Before long, she also started singing along with her music at the behest of one bar owner. She took the stage name Nina Simone"Nina" came from a nickname meaning "little one" and "Simone" after the actress Simone Signoret. She won over such fans as Harlem Renaissance writers Langston Hughes, Lorraine Hansberry, and James Baldwin.

Civil Rights Singer

Simone began recording her music in the late 1950s under the Bethlehem label, releasing her first full album in 1958, which featured "Plain Gold Ring" and "Little Girl Blue." It also included her one and only top 40 pop hit with her version of "I Loves You Porgy" from the George Gershwin musical Porgy and Bess.

In many ways, Simone's music defied standard definitions. Her classical training showed through, no matter what genre of song she played, and she drew from many sources including gospel, pop and folk. She was often called the "High Priestess of Soul," but she hated that nickname. She didn't like the label of "jazz singer", either. "If I had to be called something, it should have been a folk singer because there was more folk and blues than jazz in my playing," she later wrote.

By the mid-1960s, Simone became known as the voice of the civil rights movement. She wrote "Mississippi Goddam" in response to the 1963 assassination of Medgar Evers and the Birmingham church bombing that killed four young African-American girls. After the assassination of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968, Simone penned "Why (The King of Love Is Dead)." She also wrote "Young, Gifted and Black," borrowing the title of a play by Hansberry, which became a popular anthem at the time.

Career Renaissance

As the 1960s drew to a close, Simone tired of the American music scene and the country's deeply divided racial politics. She lived in several different countries, including Liberia, Switzerland, England and Barbados before eventually settling down in the South of France. For years, Simone also struggled with her finances, and clashed with managers, record labels, and the Internal Revenue Service.

Around this time, Simone recorded cover songs of popular music, putting her own spin on such songs as Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are A-Changin'" and the Beatles' "Here Comes the Sun." She also showed her sensual side with the song "I Want a Little Sugar in My Bowl." She then took a break from recording, returning in 1978 with the album Baltimore. The title track was a cover version of a Randy Newman song. Critics gave the album a warm reception, but it did not do well commercially.

Simone went through a career renaissance in the late 1980s when her song "My Baby Just Cares For Me" was used in a perfume commercial in the United Kingdom. The song became a Top 10 hit in Britain. She also penned her autobiography, I Put a Spell on You, which was published in 1992. Her next recording, A Single Woman, came out in 1993. To support these works, Simone gave some performances in the United States.

Touring periodically, Simone maintained a strong fan base that filled concert halls whenever she performed. She appeared in New York City in 1998, her first trip there in five years. The New York Times critic Jon Paneles reviewed the concert, saying that "there is still power in her voice" and the show featured "a beloved sound, a celebrated personality, and a repertory that magnifies them both." That same year, Simone attended South African leader Nelson Mandela's 80th birthday celebration.

Legacy

In 1999, Simone performed at the Guinness Blues Festival in Dublin, Ireland. She was joined on stage by her daughter Lisa for a few songs. Lisa, from Simone's second marriage to manager Andrew Stroud, followed in her mother's footsteps. She has appeared on Broadway in Aida, using the stage name "Simone."

In her final years, Simone battled with health problems. Some reports indicate she was battling breast cancer, but that claim has not been officially confirmed. She died on April 21, 2003, at her home in Carry-le-Rouet, France.

While she may be gone, Simone left a lasting impression on the world of music. She sang to share her truth, and her music still resonates with great emotion and power. Simone has inspired an array of performers, from Aretha Franklin to Joni Mitchell. Her deep, distinctive voice continues to be a popular choice for television and film soundtracks, from documentaries to comedies to dramas.

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Chaka Khan: Singer, Songwriter, Actor, Activist Tags: chaka khan singer songwriter actor activist word life production feature blog

Chaka Khan is one of the world's most gifted and celebrated musicians, with a rich musical legacy, the 10-time GRAMMY? Award-winner is looking forward to a celebration of a lifetime. A songwriter, actor, author, philanthropist, entrepreneur and activist, Chaka Khan has influenced generations of recording artists. She has the rare ability to sing in seven music genres, including R&B, pop, rock, gospel, country, world music and classical. Affectionately known around the world as Chaka, she is revered by millions of fans as well as her peers for hertimeless, classic and unmatched signature music style and ability. The late, great Miles Davis often said, "She [Chaka] sings like my horn." And the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin says, "[Chaka] is a one- of- a -kind, premier vocalist."

Throughout her legendary career, Chaka has released 22 albums and racked up ten #1 Billboard magazine charted songs, seven RIAA certified gold singles and ten RIAA certified gold and platinum albums. Chaka's recorded music has produced over 2,000 catalogue song placements. "I am honored and blessed to celebrate 40 years in music and entertainment" says Chaka. "I am so humbled by the love, support and gracious spirit of my fans worldwide and the continuous support my peers have shown over the years. Throughout my 40-year career, I have been through the fire a few times over and I'm still here as a living testament to God's love and grace. Next year, I will be celebrating 40 years in the business and 60 years on earth, which equals one hundred percent Chaka."

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Early on, she caught the attention of music icon Stevie Wonder, who penned her first smash hit with Rufus, "Tell Me Something Good." The single from the group's 1974 platinum-selling album, Rags to Rufus, earned Chaka her first GRAMMY? Award. With Chaka as the group's dynamic center, Rufus became one of the most popular acts around selling out shows throughout the country and dominating the airwaves with hit after hit with songs such as "You Got the Love," which Chaka co-wrote, "Once You Get Started," "Sweet Thing," "Everlasting Love," "Do You Love What You Feel?" and "Ain't Nobody," Chaka's second GRAMMY Award-winning song with Rufus. Rufus and Chaka Khan racked up five RIAA certified gold and platinum albums during their time together.

It was inevitable that a singer with Chaka's star power would eventually venture out on her own. In 1978, Chaka blazed onto the music scene as a solo artist with the release of the smash hit "I'm Every Woman" written byAshford & Simpson. Paired with the late producer extraordinaire, Arif Mardin (Aretha Franklin, Bette Midler), her catalog grew even more impressive with hits such as "Clouds," "Papillon," and "What 'Cha Gonna Do For Me?" It was during this time that Chaka began pursuing her love of jazz. She and Arif brilliantly re-worked the classic song "Night in Tunisia" with the song's originator, Dizzy Gillespie, on trumpet. Chaka also recorded an album of jazz standards titled Echoes of an Era, which featured such luminaries as Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke and Lenny White. Her crowning achievement in jazz was the GRAMMY? Award-winning tune, "Be Bop Medley." The song's album, titled Chaka Khan, also won a GRAMMY? for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance.

However, the song that made Chaka Khan a household name and propelled her to superstardom the world over was "I Feel For You," written and first performed by Prince. This chart-topping, GRAMMY? Award-winning song also made music history. Released in 1984, it was the first R&B song to feature a rap, which was performed by Grandmaster Melle Mel. Chaka also topped the charts with "This Is My Night" and the instant classic, "Through The Fire." Now in top demand, Chaka lent her voice and producer skills to two of the biggest hits of 1986, Steve Winwood's "Higher Love" and Robert Palmer's "Addicted to Love." Both were GRAMMY?-winning songs.

In 1995, she made her musical theater debut on London's West End, where she starred in Mama I Want to Sing. In 2002 she traveled to Las Vegas, where she starred in Signed, Sealed Delivered, a critically-acclaimed musical based on the music of Stevie Wonder. Her Broadway debut came in 2008, when she took over the role of Sofia in Oprah Winfrey's musical The Color Purple.

Chaka's emotive vocals can also be heard on a number of soundtracks, including Clockers, Set It Off, To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar, Miami Vice, White Knights, Moscow on the Hudson, Disappearing Acts, Waiting to Exhale and Standing In The Shadows Of Motown, as well as Tyler Perry hits Madea's Family Reunion and Meet The Browns.

During her career, she has collaborated with a long list of artists in diverse genres. Collaborators have included Miles Davis, Quincy Jones, Dizzy Gillespie, Stevie Wonder, Prince, Steve Winwood, Mary J. Blige, George Benson, Larry Graham, the London Symphony Orchestra and countless others. Chaka has received a steady stream of accolades for both her artistry and philanthropy. In June, 2012, she was inducted into the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame, joining previously inducted music greats such as Frank Sinatra, Liza Minnelli, Stevie Wonder, Garth Brooks, Bonnie Raitt, George Harrison, B.B. King, Carlos Santana, Donna Summer and Kathleen Battle. In 2011, she was honored for her legendary career with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. During the same year, Chaka was honored with the United Negro College Fund's An Evening of Stars Tribute. The program, which was televised on cable networks and broadcast stations in more than 40 cities nationwide, featured tribute performances by Stevie Wonder, Fantasia, Ledisi, El Debarge, Faith Evans, Angie Stone, Ginuwine, Chaka's brother, Mark Stevens, and her daughter, Indira Khan, among others. In recent years, Chaka also received the Soul Train Legend Award (2009), the BET Lifetime Achievement Award (2006), the GRAMMY? Honors Award from the NARAS Chicago Chapter (2006) and the World Music Award Lifetime Achievement Award (2003). In 2004, Chaka received an Honorary Doctorate of Music from Berklee College of Music. Chaka's autobiography, Through the Fire, was published by Rodale Books in 2003 and is currently being adapted into a screenplay.

Despite her busy schedule, Chaka has always made time to support and uplift her community. She has a deep commitment to women and children at risk, which led her to establish the Chaka Khan Foundation in 1999. Initially, the foundation focused primarily on public awareness campaigns around the diagnosis, intervention, and available family resources and the search for a cure for autism. Her efforts were particularly aimed at communities of color and other underserved communities, where awareness about this disorder is low. Her work in this area was inspired by her nephew who has autism and who Chaka describes as "gifted and beautiful and so full of life." She later expanded the mission of the foundation to focus more broadly on women and children at risk. In July 2012, Chaka received the McDonald Corporation's 365Black Award, honoring her for her leadership of the Chaka Khan Foundation.

Chaka also is an entrepreneur. In 2004, her line of gourmet chocolates, Chakalates, was sold in 20 Neiman Marcus stores around the country. Plans are underway to re-launch her signature brand of chocolates nationally and internationally. She currently is introducing Khana Sutra, a fragrance line for men, women and the home. The line also includes candles, and room and linen sprays. With a new svelte look, a new album, and a great enthusiasm for her new and expanding activities in music, philanthropy and entrepreneurial ventures, the 10-time GRAMMY? Award-winner is looking forward to a celebration of a lifetime.

Source: Official Website

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