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I put a spell on you : the autobiography of Nina Simone (1991)

by Nina Simone

Other authors: Stephen Cleary

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1773112,669 (3.95)7
The classic autobiography of the iconic singer and pianist, detailing her music and involvement in key moments of the Civil Rights era Born Eunice Kathleen Waymon in small-town North Carolina, Nina Simone changed the face of both music and race relations in America. She struck a chord with bluesy jazz ballads like "Put a Little Sugar in My Bowl" and powerful protest songs such as "Mississippi Goddam" and "To Be Young, Gifted, and Black," the anthem of the American Civil Rights movement. Here are the many lives and loves of Nina Simone, recounted in her unshakable voice.… (more)

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The reviews for this book weren't inspiring, but I love Nina Simone's music and I wanted to know more about her life. I was pleased with the book and enjoyed it wall the way through. I was an easy read and the writing style was very much like her singing style, understated, but powerful. I was surprised that so much of her musical background was rooted in classical music. I don't know why, but I had the mistaken idea that her life was much more difficult than it seemed to be in her autobiography. She was gifted and unfortunately like many gifted musicians, there were plenty of folks around to take advantage of her professional business. I got the idea she was very lonely a lot of the time, too. If you like Nina Simone's music, you would enjoy this book.
  bcrowl399 | Sep 28, 2016 |
I still remember like it was yesterday the first time I heard Nina Simone: 1993, I was fifteen and watching the movie, Point of No Return. A mediocre film for which I'm thankful only because it introduced me to Nina's music. From that day on, I haven't made a feelings-based mix (yeah, I still make mix CDs) without at least one of her songs. There are few singers/musicians who evoke such pure connection like she does, for me. I'll always wish I could've attended one of her live performances.

Even though I felt so deeply listening to Nina, I'm not one of those people who actively seeks out the details of an artist's life. Maybe I'm scared their reality will shatter my perception? Perhaps it feels too invasive to seek out personal details? So it wasn't until I heard about the 2015 documentary, What Happened, Miss Simone?, that I wondered how much Nina's life and the times directly affected her music. The answer: a lot. How could it not? In Nina's words, "An artist's duty, as far as I'm concerned, is to reflect the times...How can you be an artist and not reflect the times? That to me is the definition of an artist."

After watching that documentary, I looked to see if she'd written a book and sure enough, she had. While this autobiography was rather short, I appreciated hearing her story in her words. And I'm left with two thoughts:

1) what could Nina Simone have accomplished if she had not been raised/lived in a society where being Black and a woman were obstacles she had to overcome before anyone would even hear her gift?

and

2) why is so much that happened to Black people during her lifetime STILL happening today, and how many budding artists, inventors, entrepreneurs, scientists, etc. are being dismissed because of their race or sex? It's maddening.

So while Nina Simone wasn't perfect - oh, how I wish she hadn't been as dependent on the love of a man as she was - I am happy to know more about who she was. And she will forever be someone to whom I'll turn for an example of what can be accomplished when a woman refuses to give up on her gift.

4 stars

"Although Lorraine [Hansberry] was a girlfriend - a friend of my own, rather than one shared with Andy - we never talked about men or clothes or other such inconsequential things when we got together. It was always Marx, Lenin, and revolution -- real girls' talk (p.87)."

"I was rich and famous but I wasn't free. Most of the decisions I made were taken in consultation with my manager/husband, accountant, lawyer and record company. Like it or not, I couldn't do what I wanted and think about the consequences later; I had to plan months, sometimes years, ahead. So I felt part of the struggle, yet separated from it. I was lonely in the movement like I had been lonely everywhere else. Sometimes I think the whole of my life has been a search to find that one place I truly belong (p.113)." ( )
  flying_monkeys | Feb 14, 2016 |
my favourite type of read (autobiographies) AND one of my favourite musicians of all time all in one book, what more could i have asked for? It took me exactly two nights to read this book for obvious reasons, and largely because i was trying to get to the part where she extensively takes us through her journey with bipolarism (if there's such a word), which came, but not in the magnitude i wanted it to. That would be the only let-down, otherwise, it was nothing short of great...
  shami05 | Oct 4, 2009 |
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Cleary, Stephensecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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The classic autobiography of the iconic singer and pianist, detailing her music and involvement in key moments of the Civil Rights era Born Eunice Kathleen Waymon in small-town North Carolina, Nina Simone changed the face of both music and race relations in America. She struck a chord with bluesy jazz ballads like "Put a Little Sugar in My Bowl" and powerful protest songs such as "Mississippi Goddam" and "To Be Young, Gifted, and Black," the anthem of the American Civil Rights movement. Here are the many lives and loves of Nina Simone, recounted in her unshakable voice.

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