I was browsing on Netflix and found “What Happened, Miss Simone?” It’s a full-length documentary about the singer Nina Simone. Her daughter, Lisa Simone Kelly, describes Nina Simone’s life dilemma simply: she was the same woman on stage and off.
Nina Simone was raised from age four to be a concert pianist, sponsored by her white piano teacher. She attended Juilliard on scholarship but when Curtis Institute of Music rejected her because she was black, Simone had to go to work playing piano and singing in clubs.
Her jazz reputation grew; she sold records and sold out concerts; and she performed civil rights benefits and rallies. She grew more and more politically radical -- which hurt her career. Eventually she was diagnosed as bi-polar, but her daughter isn’t so sure that’s right. Neither am I after seeing the film. It’s a wonder anyone within the civil rights movement emerged able to live a balanced life.
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“What Happened, Miss Simone?” has terrific music and riveting scenes of protest and performance. It’s a movie that gives insight today into Black Lives Matter.