Nina Simone

By: Tucker Cummings
February 21, 2014


Many celebrities embrace social and political causes. But singer-songwriter NINA SIMONE (born Eunice Waymon, 1933—2003), a prominent figure at Civil Rights marches and author of the 1964 song “Mississippi Goddam” (“You don’t have to live next to me,/just give me my equality!”), was an activist first and foremost. “I was half-crazy with anger… a woman on fire,” she writes, about the Sixties, in her autobiography, “and that was how I felt most of the time as I watched my people struggling for their rightful place in America.” Best known today for her epic 1965 version of the traditional African American spiritual song “Sinnerman,” Simone was a passionate advocate for any action that would elevate the standing of African-Americans — and that passion got her into trouble. When she refused to pay her taxes in protest against the Vietnam War, she was forced to flee to Barbados. Her tumultuous life and vehement protests against inequality informed Simone’s stunning vocal performances, making her a hero to music fans and human rights activists alike.


On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: David Foster Wallace, Ellen Page, Anaïs Nin.

READ MORE about men and women born on the cusp between the Postmodernist (1924-33) and Anti-Anti-Utopian (1934-43) Generations.