Nina Simone, who would've turned 80 on February 21, was a strong and vocal civil rights advocate who carried the message of universal rights and personal empowerment, freedom, equality and dignity throughout her career. Whether it was political or emotional or personal, she never failed to tell the truth through her music.
One of the most powerful and uncompromising artists of the 20th century, Nina Simone was a natural talent who developed into a virtuosic performer — an ineffable song stylist with concert hall piano skills and a transcendental on-stage presence. Singer, songwriter, arranger, and pianist, Nina wove classical, blues, jazz, pop, rock, R&B, folk, gospel, torch songs and world music into a body of work as eclectic as it is incomparable.
She began her career as a recording artist in 1958 with her version of I Loves You, Porgy," from George and Ira Gershwin's Porgy and Bess," her first US chart success, and made more than 40 albums before her death, at 70, in France on April 21, 2003.
On the Legacy Recordings site, fans and collectors will find access a variety of comprehensive Nina Simone titles including: Nina Simone - The Complete RCA Album Collection; To Be Free: The Nina Simone Story (a four-disc set including DVD); The Essential Nina Simone; Playlist: The Very Best of Nina Simone and, in time for Valentine's Day, Nina Simone - Love Songs, a specially-curated collection of the artist's most sensual and romantic recordings.
In 2008, Legacy Recordings released To Be Free: The Nina Simone Story, a deluxe four-disc (three CDs + DVD) box set that stands as the most comprehensive and wide-ranging collection of Nina Simone’s music ever compiled. Containing 51 audio tracks – eight of them previously unreleased – the collection covered her recording years from 1957 to 1993 for the Bethlehem, Colpix, Philips, RCA (for whom she cut nine LPs that are considered the pinnacle of her output), CTI, and Elektra record labels, plus another nine performances on the 23-minute documentary DVD.
Nina Simone was one of those controversial figures American pop music puts forward from time to time," wrote Ed Ward in his liner notes for To Be Free: The Nina Simone Story. To see this African-American woman get angry about the racial situation in her country, right there on stage, was a shock to people who’d come to hear her sing 'I Loves You, Porgy.' Not that she cared; she figured that it was the artist’s job to deliver the truth, and if the truth hurt, so be it. Of course, events wound up proving her right, but she never stopped being prickly about one thing or another. It was just part of who she was, and part of why her music has endured while that of some of her contemporaries has faded: she’s still contemporary."