Nina Simone

From Wikiquote
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Nina Simone in 1965

Nina Simone (born Eunice Kathleen Waymon; February 21, 1933 – April 21, 2003) was an American singer, songwriter, pianist, and civil rights activist. Her music spanned many musical styles including classical, jazz, blues, folk, R&B, gospel, and pop.


  • When the poets rhyme in the summertime/You'll hear melodies in the words
  • Mr. Backlash, Mr. Backlash/Just who do you think I am?/You raise my taxes, freeze my wages/And send my son to Vietnam/You give me second class houses/And second class schools/Do you think that all colored folks/Are just second class fools?
  • the world is big/Big and bright and round/And it's full of folks like me/Who are black, yellow, beige and brown
    • Backlash Blues 1967
  • Well I wish I could be like a bird in the sky/How sweet it would be/If I found I could fly/I'd soar to the sun/And look down at the sea/And I sing 'cause I know/How it feels to be free
    • I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free 1967
  • I wish I could share all the love that's in my heart/Remove all the bars that keep us apart/I wish you could know what it means to be me/Then you'd see and agree/That everyone should be free/But, oh, I'm just a soul whose intentions are good/Oh, Lord, please, don't let me be misunderstood
    • I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free 1967
  • Hound dogs on my trail/School children sitting in jail/Black cat cross my path/I think every day's gonna be my last/Don't tell me, I'll tell you/Me and my people just about due/I've been there so I know/They keep on saying "Go slow!"
    • Mississippi Goddam 1964
  • Picket lines, school boycotts/They try to say it's a communist plot/All I want is equality/For my sister, my brother, my people, and me
    • Mississippi Goddam 1964

I Put a Spell on You (1991)

  • What kept me sane was knowing that things would change, and it was a question of keeping myself together until they did.
  • This is the world you have made yourself, now you have to live in it.
  • It was always Marx, Lenin, and revolution - real girl's talk.
  • Often you don't know how truly happy you were then until you look back and realize how much worse things could have been, how if certain things had turned out the slightest bit differently so many of your favourite people would never have crossed your path and what seemed at the time to be casual meetings and passing acquaintances would never have matured into deep, lifelong friendships. I've criss-crossed the world many times and every big city holds its own treasure-box of memories. I've had lovers from many different countries and I've fallen in love with whole countries, and, in the case of Africa, with a whole continent. People say you should measure yourself by the friends you have, and when I look at mine I'm more than content to be me. Through my life I made a world for myself just as Jimmy said I would, and the best thing of all is that I'm still happy to live in it, after all these years. (Prologue)
  • It was at this time, in the mid-sixties, that I first began to feel the power and spirituality I could connect with when I played in front of an audience. I'd been performing for ten years, but it was only at this time that I felt a kind of state of grace come upon me on those occasions when everything fell into place. At such times I would give a concert that everyone who witnessed it would remember for years, and they would go home afterwards knowing that something very special had happened. Those moments are very difficult for a performer to explain. It's like being transported in church; something descends upon you and you are gone, taken away by a spirit that is outside of you...That's what I learned about performing - that it was real, and I had the ability to make people feel on a deep level. It's difficult to describe because it's not something you can analyse; to get near what it's about you have to play it. And when you've caught it, when you've got the audience hooked, you always know because it's like electricity hanging in the air. I began to feel it happening and it seemed to me like mass hypnosis - like I was hypnotizing an entire audience to feel a certain way. I was the toreador mesmerizing this bull and I could turn around and walk away, turning my back on this huge animal which I knew would do nothing because I had it under my complete control. And, like they did with the toreadors, people came to see me because they knew I was playing close to the edge and one day I might fail. This was how I got my reputation as a live performer, because I went out from the mid-sixties onwards determined to get every audience to enjoy my concerts the way I wanted them to, and if they resisted at first I had all the tricks to bewitch them with.
  • The president, LBJ, went on TV to declare 7 April a Day of National Mourning. This was the same man who had ordered thousands of US citizens - black and white - overseas to die in a foreign jungle while he ignored the war at home. Our president was obviously a man of violence. Why shouldn't the rest of us be the same?
  • As I became more knowledgeable I came to my own conclusions about separatism. In the white man's world the black man would always lose out, so the idea of a separate black nation, whether it was in America or in Africa, made sense. But I didn't believe that there was any basic difference between the races - whoever is on top uses whatever means they can to keep the other down, and if black America was on top they'd use race as a way of oppressing whites in exactly the way they themselves were oppressed. Anyone who has power only has it at the expense of someone else and to take that power away from them you have to use force, because they'll never give it up from choice. That is what I came to believe, and it was a big step forward in my political thinking because I realized that what we were really fighting for was the creation of a new society. When I had started out in the movement all I wanted were my rights under the Constitution, but the more I thought about it the more I realized that no matter what the President or the Supreme Court might say, the only way we could get true equality was if America changed completely, top to bottom. And this change had to start with my own people, with black revolution.
  • Because of 'Porgy' people often compared me to Billie Holiday, which I hated. That was just one song out of my repertoire, and anybody who saw me perform could see we were entirely different. What made me mad was that it meant people couldn't get past the fact we were both black: if I had happened to be white nobody would have made the connection. And I didn't like to be put in a box with other jazz singers because my musicianship was totally different, and in its own way superior. Calling me a jazz singer was a way of ignoring my musical background because I didn't fit into white ideas of what a black performer should be. It was a racist thing; 'If she's black she must be a jazz singer.' It diminished me, exactly like Langston Hughes was diminished when people called him a 'great black poet'. Langston was a great poet period, and it was up to him and him alone to say what part the colour of his skin had to do with


  • Right now I'm as close to happy as I can be without a husband to love, I started to work on this book, looking back over a life which, after thinking about for months and months, I have no regrets about. Plenty of mistakes, some bad days, and, most resonant of all, years of joy - hard, but joyous all the same - fighting for the rights of my brothers and sisters everywhere; America, Africa, all over the world, years where pleasure and pain were mixed together. I knew then, and I still do, that the happiness I felt, and still feel, as we moved forward together was of a kind that very few people ever experience. But what I like most of all about the way things are now is that I have enough financial security to know that I can't be pushed into doing anything I don't want to. When I release a new album or video it'll be because I'm proud and want to share it - no other reason. (p 175)

Quotes about Nina Simone

  • When I say poet, it's an arbitrary word. It's a word I use because I don't like the word artist. Nina Simone is a poet...There is a whole list of people. I'm not talking about literature at all. I'm talking about the recreation of experience, you know, the way that it comes back...And if you could bear it, then you could begin to change it. That's what a poet does. I'm not talking about books. I'm talking about a certain kind of passion, a certain kind of energy which people produce and they secrete in certain people like Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, and Max Roach because they need it and these people give it back to you and they get you from one place to another.
    • 1973 interview in Conversations with James Baldwin edited by Louis H. Pratt and Fred L. Standley (1989)
  • Still mildly under the influence of 2-CB, I reflected on the evening and my time at Boom. In the background, Nina Simone was singing her soul-wrenching song "Why?," which laments the murder of Martin Luther King Jr. Something about the combination of 2-CB-related effects and Nina's heartfelt voice made me feel the song as if for the very first time, even though I had listened to it since I was a child. I was able to make connections between the love and freedom King advocated for everyone and the love and freedom we all experienced at Boom: it came down to the protection of personal liberty and the unalienable right to pursue happiness. The Portuguese government has taken a step in the right direction with its drug-decriminalization policy. The U.S. government, by contrast, has yet to stand up to the promise of the Declaration of Independence. Nina asked earnestly, "Will my country fall, stand or fall? Is it too late for us all?"
    • Carl Hart Drug Use for Grown-Ups: Chasing Liberty in the Land of Fear (2021)
  • Artists like Nina Simone and James Baldwin, who were able to create work that really spoke about the conditions facing Black people and work that would remain universal contributions to culture—something that would continue to shape generations.
Wikipedia has an article about:
Wikisource has original text related to: