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Book: Nina Simone

Chapter: Introduction

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.20679


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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In this chapter, the author introduces the topics about to be explored in the followings chapters concerning Nina Simone's long and prestigious career.

Chapter Contributors

  • Richard Elliott ( - book-auth-625) 'University of Sussex'