The woman known to the world as Nina Simone was born Eunice Waymon, whose virtuosity at the piano was evident at a very early age.
The North Carolina native changed her name after the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia rejected her scholarship application. She was convinced that it was because of her race, a claim that remains disputed. Broke, Simone started playing at an Atlantic City bar and the name change was done to prevent her parents from finding out.
In “What Happened, Miss Simone,” filmmaker Liz Garbus focuses on the singer’s musical career as it intertwined with her growing political activism. One of Simone’s most famous, and controversial songs, “Mississippi Goddamn” was written in response to the 1963 bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama that killed four young black girls. Simone wrote it in a fit of rage and grief in less than an hour.
As part of our coverage of this year’s Academy Awards, Larry speaks with filmmaker Liz Garbus, and Ambassador Attallah Shabazz, Malcolm X’s daughter, about Simone’s lasting influence.
Liz Garbus, filmmaker of the Oscar-nominated documentary, “What Happened, Miss Simone.”
Ambassador Shabazz, diplomat and eldest daughter of Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz, featured in the documentary, “What Happened, Miss Simone.”