- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 21, 2001

Nina Simone, the singer and pianist whose work blends the genres of pop, jazz, blues and gospel, will give a rare U.S. performance at DAR Constitution Hall on Saturday night.
Miss Simone is an eclectic artist who is hard to categorize. "She covers the songs of the Beatles, Jacques Brel, Leonard Cohen, George Gershwin, Rod-gers and Hammerstein, Duke Ellington and the Bee Gees, and yet every song she sings is her own," critic Jennifer Gilmore wrote in Salon.com.
Born Eunice Waymon in Tyron, N.C., in 1933, Miss Simone won a scholarship to study piano at the Julliard School of Music in 1950. After the scholarship dwindled, she began singing and playing piano in nightclubs and changed her name to Nina Simone. Her first recording success was a 1959 version of George Gershwins "I Loves You Porgy" from the musical "Porgy and Bess." Miss Simones version became a Top 20 pop hit and a gold record.
In the 60s, Miss Simone became an outspoken crusader for civil rights and earned the title "high priestess of soul music."
She wrote the angry anthem "Mississippi Goddam" in 1963 after civil rights leader Medgar Evers was assassinated and four girls were killed in a Birmingham, Ala., church bombing.
Miss Simone also gained notoriety for her unique versions of pop hits. She has made well-received covers of everything from Bob Dylans "Just Like a Woman" to the Bee Gees "To Love Somebody" to Jerry Jeff Walkers "Mr. Bojangles." She was the first to record the popular 60s song "Dont Let Me Be Misunderstood," before it became a hit for the British rock group the Animals.
Known for her wide vocal range and ability to interpret lyrics, Miss Simone has brought audiences to a hush by whispering, moaning and shouting.
Miss Simone experienced a resurgence in popularity in 1987 when her recording of "My Baby Just Cares for Me" became the theme for an ad campaign for Chanel No. 5 perfume. The song reached No. 5 on the English pop charts. Her music also was featured prominently in the 1993 movie "Point of No Return," about a female assassin obsessed with Miss Simone.
Though she has often been likened to jazz great Billie Holiday, Miss Simone rejects the comparison as insulting. "She was a drug addict," Miss Simone told Details magazine in 1997. "Im more of a diva, like Maria Callas."
Miss Simone has lived in the South of France since the 70s and is currently on a rare tour of the United States.
"While her voice has grown weaker, it maintains much of its untraditional beauty, and is an unyielding force like wind or fire," wrote the Boston Globe after a concert last year.

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