A songwriter whose songs weren’t only about entertainment but also opened closed minds, Simone made a point to unlock people’s hearts. Her piano solos oozed classical leanings and swing, while her deep alto scowl was inimitable.
She captured moral outrage like nobody before, bringing Billie Holiday’s chilling lyric about a lynching to new heights with her rendition of Strange Fruit.
1. I Put a Spell on You
This song encapsulates why Simone was more than just a musician; she was a cultural zeitgeist artist. This was the first time she stepped into political activism through music, a trend that would continue throughout her career. You can listen to Simone’s songs for free on Mp3 Juice.
The deep vocal scowl is backed by a minimalistic arrangement that exposes Simone’s powerful delivery. The song was an instant hit and even spawned commercials and was covered by artists such as Kanye West. It is a powerful protest against injustice. The best version is on the Wild is the Wind album.
2. Feeling Good
Feeling Good is a classic that showcases Simone’s talent as both a pianist and vocalist. The song’s uplifting message of hope and positivity has inspired generations of listeners.
Originally written for Billie Holiday, Simone’s haunting rendition of the civil rights-era song is a timeless masterpiece. Her soulful, soaring voice and empowering lyrics make this track one of her most iconic recordings. Her version was also used in an 80’s commercial and sampled by artists such as Kanye West and Talib Kweli. Feeling Good is an anthem for all people looking to find meaning in their lives.
Nina’s adroit ability to comprehend bittersweet experiences and turn them into heartfelt songs was one of her biggest gifts. Her version of Quincy Jones’ 1974 classic Everything Must Change is a case in point.
This ten minute jazz epic details a man wrought with sin who runs from God’s judgment. Simone’s passionate delivery reveals her own religious beliefs as well as her eventual sharp political stance.
Her version of Sinnerman has been sampled by rappers, including Talib Kweli and Kanye West. It’s also been used in the musical Hair.
4. Porgy and Bess
One of Simone’s best known songs, this soulful classic shows off her voice and piano skills. Its powerful lyrics make it a timeless classic that inspires listeners to stay strong and persevere through difficult times.
This song speaks to the civil rights movement of the 1960s, and Simone’s emotional delivery gives it a deeper meaning. It was her first major hit, but it became obscure until used in a perfume commercial in the ’80s, which gave Simone a wider audience and a boost in income.
5. Everything Must Change
In the midst of the civil rights movement, Simone used music to express her own frustration with a prejudiced society. Her vocal scowl and piano play perfectly fuse jazz, classical, and gospel styles.
This song is a beautiful reminder of how important it is to stay true to yourself. It also inspires others to believe in themselves and pursue their dreams, no matter the obstacles.
This song is a powerful expression of the importance of equality and social justice. The lyrics speak volumes about Simone’s dedication to these issues.
6. I’ll Be Seeing You
The opening track to her 1982 album Nina Simone and Piano! is a haunting spiritual about sinners and judgement day.
With a perfect blend of jazz, blues and gospel, her amber vibrato communicates the sense of remorse that puts redemption crushingly out of reach.
This is a high point from a less than great album, but it speaks to Simone’s mission as a musical protestor against racial injustice. Those swirling brass and her impassioned delivery have you under its spell from the get go. This is one of her most enduring covers.
7. Mr. Bojangles
Simone’s rendition of this spiritual, which evokes the specter of racially motivated murders and other acts of domestic terrorism, is one of her most enduring recordings. It combines jazz, classical and gospel styles in a brilliant display of her piano skills. It has been covered by everyone from Hall and Oates to Kanye West.
Eunice Kathleen Waymon, known professionally as Nina Simone, left an indelible mark on twentieth-century music. Her idiosyncratic interpretations made the songs she sang into universal anthems. She influenced artists across genres, demonstrating the range of her talent and unflinching political convictions.
8. I’ll Be Seeing You Again
This is a classic Nina Simone song that showcases her amazing voice. The song is a traditional spiritual that combines a haunting melody with powerful lyrics about sinners running from divine retribution. This song is one of the most famous songs by Simone, and it shows her dedication to social justice.
Simone was a talented pianist and singer who often performed at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in London. She was known for her haughty on-stage personality and would occasionally shout at her audience. She also liked to engage with her audience by telling humorous stories and asking for requests.
9. Strange Fruit
In a career that saw her record over 40 albums, Simone had the ability to infuse jazz with other genres including pop, blues and R&B. From heartfelt ballads to poignant anthems of social justice, her music encapsulates the triumphs and struggles of the human experience.
Although Billie Holiday’s version of Strange Fruit was the first one to gain prominence, it is Simone’s 1965 rendition that has remained iconic (even getting sampled by Kanye West). Her deep vocal scowl makes this song one you can’t forget. It was also the first of many protest songs by Simone.
10. I’ll Be Seeing You
Eunice Kathleen Waymon, better known as Nina Simone, had an unforgettable voice. She used it on this aching piano ballad from Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess to convey despair at her bleak surroundings.
This song, written about lynchings and domestic terrorism in the United States, marked Simone’s direct involvement in the Civil Rights Movement. It features her soaring vocals, a perfect infusion of jazz, classical and blues with phrases played off against one another in counterpoint. It was sampled by Kanye West on his rap song Blood on the Leaves.