21 February marks the birthday of singer Nina Simone. The sixth child of a preacher’s family in North Carolina, Simone aspired to be a concert pianist. Her musical path changed direction after she was denied a scholarship to the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, despite a well-received audition. She later found out from an insider at Curtis that she was denied entry because she was black. In order to fund her continuing musical education and become a classical pianist, she began playing in a small club in Atlantic City where she was also required to sing. She was approached by Bethlehem Records. Over the length of her career Simone recorded more than 40 albums.
An uncompromising vocal critic of ‘Jim Crow’ laws and institutional racism, Simone performed such songs as ‘Mississippi Goddamn’ to protest racial inequality in the USA.