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I Put a Spell on You: The Autobiography of Nina Simone.

If Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was the drum major of the Civil Rights Movement, setting its political resonance, Nina Simone was the movement's singer, providing its musical inspiration and protest songs, particularly "Mississippi Goddam." Her renditions were as symbolic of the struggle as boycotts or sit-in demonstrations.

Not only were Simone's songs a touchstone for the movement, but they were useful markers in the career of a musician who dreamed of becoming the first black concert pianist. "Young Gifted and Black," the song Simone composed to honor her friend Lorraine Hansberry, accurately relates Simone's days as a North Carolina prodigy. Simone's songs also chronicle the path she took from church-going Eunice Kathleen Waymon to the sudden success she experienced as Nina Simone in East Coast nightclubs.

Years before she became a star, Simone had to recover from being refused admission to the classical piano program at Philadelphia's Curtis Institute of Music. She did so by taking her skills to the nightclub world. There, a club owner demanded that she mix her Bach, boogie and bebop stylings with some vocals. Simone was a success and a secretly recorded version of "I Loves You, Porgy" was distributed, enhancing her growing popularity.

Another song, "Four Women," viewed by many as the anthem of the then fledgling women's liberation movement, was more indicative of Simone's personal growth. Her liaisons with Nation of Islam leader Reverend Louis Farrakhan and Stokely Carmichael are among other juicy dollops featured.

In I Put a Spell On You, Simone bares her soul, and more. She transports the reader along with her as she recounts her journey from North Carolina to voluntary exile in Europe and back again to the United States at age 60 as a reemerging celebrity.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Earl G. Graves Publishing Co., Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Boyd, Herb
Publication:Black Enterprise
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 1, 1992
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