Poster Nina Simone archival photo
American singer, songwriter, pianist, arranger and activist Nina Simone is shown in 1979.
Mike Lawn/Getty Images
Rhapsody in Black

Singer Nina Simone is the high priestess of soul

Rhapsody in Black - Nina Simone

American singer, songwriter, pianist, arranger and activist Nina Simone found her calling in jazz after a career as a classical pianist was halted before her eyes. That might have been for the best, because we might have never gotten the version of Simone we have today. Her life’s work in music and civil rights continues to inspire and help people follow her simple doctrine: “It’s an artist’s duty to reflect the times.” That is exactly what she did.

Musical selections from Nina Simone

‘Feeling Good’

Simone has created her amazing legacy by telling the story of Black female empowerment and rejecting imposed expectations. "Feeling Good” is not only one of her most popular songs, but it was a call to challenge boundaries and encourage empowered expressions of Black culture and beauty.

‘Mississippi Goddam’

This work is one of her most famous protest songs and is considered her first civil rights piece. It is in response to the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama, and the murders of Emmett Till and Medgar Evers in Mississippi.

‘Little Liza Jane’

Performed live at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1960, “Little Liza Jane” is a leisure song of enslaved Black Americans. Simone’s singing of this song is an important part of reclaiming Black history and music.


Host: Tesfa Wondemagegnehu

Producer: Dan Nass

Writers: Andrea Blain and Scott Blankenship

Executive Producer: Julie Amacher

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About Rhapsody in Black

Where we turn up the voices of Black artists in the world of classical music, with host Vernon Neal.

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