I PUT A SPELL ON YOU: The Autobiography of Nina Simone by Nina with Stephen Cleary Simone
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I PUT A SPELL ON YOU: The Autobiography of Nina Simone

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Well-written life of singer-pianist Simone, as notable for its clear, strong voice as for its events, which are pretty strong too. Despite some wild moments, Simone's is a life to he proud of and she tells it modestly but with an emotional accuracy of recall that makes her book stand out from other celebrity lives. Born Eunice Waymon and raised in South and North Carolina, Simone was the sixth child of a preacher mother. Early seen as a child prodigy of the piano, she practiced five hours a day for decades, intent on becoming the first black concert pianist. But after a year at Juilliard and despite her gifts, she was turned down by the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia--she thinks for being black. To make a living, she took a job in a Philadelphia dive, playing and singing for drunks. She played classical/folk/pop, giving huge, sweeping interpretations of pieces like ""I Loves You, Porgy"" that could last three hours. Recording dates followed. Her marriages were duds, the second being to a cop with a Jekyll/Hyde personality, who became her manager and landed her in deep water with the IRS. Meeting playwright Lorraine Hansberry led Simone into civil-rights activity. She was hit hard by the deaths of Hansberry, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, and Robert Kennedy, underwent some kind of mental breakdown, lost her home to the IRS, fled to Europe, and later, with Miriam Makeba, to Liberia. Liberia was paradise and, after a mad evening spent dancing stark-naked in a club for two hours, she was pursued by black millionaires. Trouble followed her, and she later wound up in Barbados as the mistress of the P.M. A failed suicide attempt was eventually followed by resolution of her tax problems and a comeback. Simone captures each person in her life with silverpoint outlines and never shies from baring the truth. A gripping life that rings true.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1992
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Pantheon