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Nina Simone

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Nina Simone defied musical categories even as she fought against social ones and the result is a body of work that draws on classical and jazz music, country blues, French chanson, gospel, protest songs, pop and rock tunes, turning genres and styles inside out in pursuit of what Simone called ‘black classical music’.

This book begins with a focus on the early part of Simone’s career and a discussion of genre and style. Connecting its analysis to a discussion of social categorization, particularly race, it argues that Simone’s defiance of stylistic boundaries can be seen as a political act. The focus then shifts to Simone’s self-written protest material, connecting it to her increasing involvement in the struggle for civil rights. The book provides an in-depth account of Simone’s ‘possession’ of material by writers such as Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Sandy Denny and Judy Collins. In considering material from Simone’s lesser-known work of the 1970s to the 1990s, the study proposes a theory of the ‘late voice’ in which issues of age, experience and memory are emphasised, before concluding with a discussion of Simone’s ongoing legacy.

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Published: Jun 1, 2013


Section Chapter Authors
Acknowledgements Richard Elliott
Introduction Richard Elliott
Categories Richard Elliott
Politics Richard Elliott
Possession Richard Elliott
Lateness Richard Elliott
Legacy Richard Elliott
Conclusion Richard Elliott
Notes Richard Elliott
Bibliography Richard Elliott
Index Richard Elliott
Discography and videography
Discography and videography Richard Elliott

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Nina Simone, a twentieth-century musical giant, has been astonishingly neglected - by listeners, critics and scholars. Richard Elliott explains why, but his wonderful book does far more: with enviable depth of analysis and breadth of cultural reference, he summons Simone’s music to a rendezvous with history that its significance, power and beauty always promised. An event, in every sense.
Richard Middleton, Emeritus Professor of Music, Newcastle University