Princess Noire: The Tumultuous Reign of Nina Simone

by Debbie Stoller

Nadine Cohodas’ new book immortalizes one of the greatest musicians of our time, “The High Priestess of Soul,” with never-before-shared stories about Nina Simone’s childhood and her temperamental career that burned a path through the history of music.

Born Eunice Kathleen Waymon in Tryon, NC, in 1933, Simone grew up the sixth child of eight. She was known in her neighborhood as a child protÈgÈ on the piano, playing flawlessly by the time she was three. In efforts to fund her own classical piano lessons at the age of 21, Simone supplemented her income by playing the piano and singing at the Midtown Bar in Atlantic City-and it was at this time that she would embrace her voice and change her name to Nina Simone, so that her mother wouldn’t find out she was playing in a bar. Simone is arguably most noted for her deep, sometimes baritone-range voice, which was often mistaken for a man’s. Cohodas goes into further detail about Simone’s personal relationships (including two marriages), her daughter, Lisa, her involvement in the civil-rights movement (which was brash, truthful, and aggressive), her ever-evolving fashion sense, and, of course, her vast and dynamic career. Princess Noire is a thoughtfully written page-turner, peppered with black-and-white photos of Simone throughout her life. To any fan of Simone, Princess Noire will certainly be the equivalent of a little sugar in your bowl.

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