What Happened, Miss Simone? (2015) Script

Tremendous pleasure and honour to welcome the incredible, unique and fantastic one and only Nina Simone!


Hi. We're ready.

One, two, three.

I haven't seen you for many years since 1968.

I've decided that I will do no more jazz festivals.

That decision has not changed.

I will sing for you, or we will do and share with you a few moments, after which I shall graduate to a higher class, I hope, and I hope you will come with me.

We'll start from the beginning,

which was about a little girl, and her name was Blue.

What's "free" to you?

What's "free" to me? Yeah.

Same thing it is to you. You tell me.

No, you tell me.

I don't know.

It's just a feeling.

It's just a feeling.

It's like, "How do you tell somebody how it feels to be in love?"

How are you going to tell anybody who has not been in love how it feels to be in love?

You cannot do it to save your life.

You can describe things but you can't tell them.

But you know it when it happens. That's what I mean by "free".

I've had a couple of times on stage when I really felt free!

And that's something else.

That's really something else!

Like... I tell you what freedom is to me: no fear!

I mean really, no fear.

If I could have that...

Half of my life... No fear.

My mother was one of the greatest entertainers of all time, hands down.

But she paid a huge price.

People seem to think when she went out on stage, that was when she became Nina Simone.

My mother was Nina Simone 24/7 and that's where it became a problem.

When she was performing she was brilliant.

She was loved.

She was also a revolutionary.

She found a purpose for the stage, a place from which she could use her voice to speak out for her people.

But when the show ended, everybody else went home.

She was alone and she was still fighting.

But she was fighting her own demons, full of anger and rage.

She couldn't live with herself.

And everything fell apart.

Good evening. Our guest tonight is Nina Simone.

Probably the foremost blues singer, jazz singer, singer of all songs in the United States today.

Nina, are you happy with the kind of work you're doing?

What makes me the happiest, is when I'm performing and there are people out there who feel with me and I know I touched them.

But to be completely honest, the whole thing seems so much like a dream.

I never thought I was gonna stay in show business.

When I first got into show business I wasn't a blues singer and I wasn't even a jazz singer.

I was a classical pianist.

I studied to become the first black classical pianist in America.

And that's all that was on my mind.

That's what I was prepared to be.

I was born Eunice Waymon, which is my real name, by the way, in a town called Tryon, North Carolina.

I started to play the piano when I was three or four.

My mother was a preacher and she took me with her on her revivals and I started to play the piano in church.

Revival meetings were some of the most exciting times that I've ever had.

The music was so intense you sort of went out of yourself.

I felt it tremendously. And I was leading it.

When I was seven, the choir of our church gave a programme at the local theatre.

And I was on that programme.

And I played some song, I don't remember what it was, and these two white women in the audience heard me.

One of them was the woman that my mother worked for, and the other one was a music teacher, Mrs Mazzanovich.

And they decided right then and there to give me lessons.

And so, for five years after that, I studied classical piano with this teacher.

I crossed the railroad tracks every weekend to get to Mrs Mazzanovich.

And railroad tracks in the South were supposed to be dividing the blacks from the whites.

Well, it really did.

I was so scared.

Mrs Mazzanovich frightened me.

It was her being white in the sense that I had never seen.

She was alien to me.

Her white hair, the combs in it, her pleasantness...

I loved that.

She started me on... Bach.

And this Bach... I liked him.

Mrs Mazzanovich had it in her mind that I was going to be one of the world's greatest concert pianists.

So it was all very disciplined classical music.

Bach, Beethoven, Debussy, Brahms, you name it.

Then Mrs Mazzanovich got a fund together, "Eunice Waymon fund".

And I gave lots of recitals.

They would take up collection to further my education after I'd have left her.

Mommy took to all the training like a fish to water, but it was a double-edged sword.

She had a very lonely life because she was practising seven, eight hours a day.

When I first started to take lessons, I became terribly aware of how isolated I was from the other children.

And how isolated I was from the white community and the negro community.

I felt it, all the time, even when the kids played with me.

They always wanted me just to play piano for them to dance I wasn't asked too much to do anything else.

That was very hard.

Part of that isolation, was the thing about colour.

I was a black girl and I knew about it, and I lived in it.

I lived in the South for 17years.

My mom rarely referred to Jim Crow and segregation and a lot of the racial issues that were going on at that stage in her life.

She did tell me about times when they told her nose was too big, her lips were too full and her skin was too dark.

And after she was told that, they probably told her, "There's only certain things you'll be good for in life."

What I knew, I knew.

We weren't allowed to mention anything racial in our house.

I wasn't consciously dealing with race.

That wasn't consciously on my mind at all. Until years later.

After I graduated from high school, the money that had been saved from the Eunice Waymon Fund sent me to New York, to Juilliard for a year and a half.

Then I applied for a scholarship to Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.

I was playing Czerny and Liszt, Rachmaninoff and Bach.

I knew I was good enough but they turned me down.

It took me about six months to realise it was because I was black.

I never really got over that jolt of racism at the time.

Then the money ran out and the reality hit me that I had to go to work.

My parents had moved the family to Philadelphia to be near me.

And my family is very poor, so I had to work.

What else was there for me to do?

I got myself a job in Atlantic City for a summer.

It was a very crummy bar.

I used to go in evening gowns. I didn't know any better.

I played everything that I could think of.

Pop songs, classical, spirituals, all kinds of things.

It was very strange.

And I had never sung before.

The owner came in the second night and told me if I wanted to keep the job, I had to sing.

$90 was more money than I had ever heard of in my life.

So I said: "Well, I'll sing." Ever since I've been singing.

Eunice Waymon was playing in bars to support her family and to have money to continue her classical piano training.

Since she didn't want her mother to know that she was playing the "devil's music" in bars, she changed her name.

Eunice Waymon became Nina Simone.

She named herself "Niña", meaning "little one".

She had a boyfriend who called her "Niña", and "Simone" came from the French actress Simone Signoret.

I didn't want my mother to find out.

I knew she would hate it.

I kept it from her for a long, long time.

Was it lonely for a young girl entertaining in these strange bars?

Extremely. Extremely lonely.

Working peculiar hours, I imagine.

12:00 midnight till 7:00 in the morning.

It ruined your social life. Never had much of one.

Why did you keep on with it? I couldn't help it.

I have to play and I needed money.

It was always a matter of necessity from day to day what I am going to do...

I didn't even know I was going to stay in show business.

I never thought about a choice.

From the beginning, I felt there was something eating at her.

You know, "What's eating at you, Nina?"

Gradually that got stronger.

The first time I played with Nina, it was the summer of 1957 at a restaurant in New Hope, Pennsylvania.

She didn't look at me, said nothing as if I wasn't even there, and started in on a song.

She never told me what key she was going to be in.

She started playing and I knew exactly where I was going to go with it.

It was like we had a telepathic relationship.

Before you knew it, we were just weaving in and out And then she looked up.

Al Schackman is a terribly sensitive, creative man.

He has perfect pitch, which means that no matter what key I'm in, he's able to adapt himself immediately.

'Cause I do that all the time.

I change the key in the middle of a tune.

Nina had a wonderful way of taking a piece of music and... not interpreting it but metamorphosising it.

You know, morphing it into her experience.

What I was interested in was conveying an emotional message, which means using everything you've got inside you sometimes to barely make a note or if you have to strain to sing, you sing.

Sometimes I sound like gravel and sometimes I sound like coffee and cream.

When I first saw Nina at my club in 1959, I was impressed.

She was different.

She mixed in folk music with jazz.

She played very fine piano.

Her voice was totally different from anybody else.

It was a woman's voice but it had the depth of a baritone.

That depth and that darkness carried the insight of what was in Nina's soul.

And it reached you very quickly.

She was an artist. She was an original artist.

So we paid attention and in 1960, I put her on the Newport Jazz Festival.

And she was a hit there.

Her sound is so original When she first appeared, she was one of those musicians...

Once... you don't have to hear them much.

If you hear them once, the next time you hear them you say:

"Oh, that's that same one I heard last week.

Nobody sounds like that except her."

At Newport, she was sitting on a high stool with a tambourine.

I was in the back.

She wasn't sure she wanted to go through with it.

If I remember right, she was a little, you know...

"What am I doing here?"

I said: "You're here because you belong here."

She said: "OK, Al, but you'd better play."

I said: "Don't worry, I'll play."

Then, if you watch during her performance of "Little Liza", she has that little smile from time to time.

She let go and it was really cute.

Then I recorded seven or eight tunes I had been doing all those years and of course the public picked out "I Loves You Porgy".

It was not pushed or promoted to be a hit at all.

Girls! Don! Hi. Hi, Hugh, nice to see you.

Real great.

Eleanor, you wanna take Don's coat here?

Maybe you can show the girls where the powder room is, the bedroom.

Hello there.

Very nice to have you with us this evening.

This is Playboy's Penthouse, and I'm Hugh Hefner, editor publisher of Playboy Magazine.

I'd like you to meet someone most of you know, Nina Simone.

She came out of nowhere in the last year as a recording star.

She has a very big record, "Porgy" that is breaking all kinds of sales records.

We're very happy she could join us tonight on Playboy's Penthouse Thanks.

She's gonna play and sing a little bit now with her group.

You want to hear "Porgy"?

Very much. Right.

Good. That's what we'll do.

Nina, there's a man named Andy Stroud.

He walked into your life and he became a permanent part.

How did you meet your husband?

He came to see me at a nightclub and a mutual friend introduced us.

Nina came to the table and sat. I was eating a Hamburger plate and there were fries and she dipped into them.

She wanted to know if it was OK. I said: "All right."

We got cute and then she gave me that card with a note on it.

Then I went to see her, at her place in the next day or two.

How did you know Andy Stroud was to be your husband and not just another guy out for a date or something else?

That's a hard question.

He told me that he'd wanted to meet me for a long time.

And he had come for me. I fell in love with him.

Then later, he scared me to death, he was so...

You know, he knew what he wanted and he just took over

He abandoned his own career as a sergeant of the police department to manage me.

For the first time, I knew what it was not to be just floundering out there.

I just remember meeting Andy.

He was a tough New York vice squad cop.

When he stepped out of his car uptown, people ran.

He had a way of just saying one word.


And that could put a lot of fear in people.

But Andy and Nina married in 1961.

He retired from the police force and became her manager.

And he did well for her.

They bought a beautiful house in Mount Vernon, New York.

We had a 13-room house, four acres of land, a lot of trees.

Lisa was born nine months later.

The first three hours after Lisa was born were the most peaceful in my life.

And I was in love with the world.

Andrew was there.

He was sitting right there and he said:

I said, "How is the baby?" He says: "How is the mother?"

I loved him for that.

I loved being a mother. I was a good mother.

I was a goddamn good mother.

I remember our house in Mount Vernon like the back of my hand.

It was like a fairy tale.

I remember seeing the paisley on the walls.

The walls were kind of like a..

They were hued in gold but it really wasn't gold.

It was more like a muted gold But it felt like it was velvet.

I'd always run my hands over the walls because it was textured.

And my mom had a cold storage where she kept her fur coats and her costumes.

So I was always in there.

These were the good, sweet days.

We were building and growing together.

I had an overall plan to develop and create her as an artist.

I had set up an office at 5th Avenue and 42nd Street.

I had a publicist.

I had a guy who was a record promotion man from Atlantic Records.

I had another fellow who did the college radio station promotion and a photographer.

Dad was the original Puff Daddy.

He really had a vision and he was a very astute businessman.

And of course, she was burning to get on to the Carnegie Hall.

She had trained as a classical pianist with the one thought in mind of being the first black female classical pianist to appear at Carnegie Hall.

That was her prime objective.

However, none of the New York city promoters would undertake this project.

So, I took my own money to promote the appearance.

She was ecstatic. I mean, she was out of her mind with joy.

You apparently wrote a letter to your parents saying:

"This is where you wanted me to play but I should have been playing Bach."

This was your glory occasion but you were still disappointed?

Well, I loved the audience, but I wasn't playing classical music and I wanted to be.

So I wrote: "Yes, I'm in Carnegie Hall, finally, but I'm not playing Bach."

After Carnegie Hall, she was getting airplay all over the country, magazine, pictures and stories.

She became highly successful and recognised.

Oh! Thank you very much! Meeting in Japan.

A young woman who's made a very emphatic name for herself...

An accomplished pianist and distinctive... who's now become a rather famous artist.

...a remarkable blues-soul sound.

For the first time on British television, the High Priestess of soul.

An exceptional singer.

Nina Simone. Nina Simone.

Nina Simone.

Miss Simone brings to her music a kind of technique and discipline we generally associate with classical music.

She's introduced fugue and counterpoint into the freewheeling spontaneity of the jazz world.

Nina, do you think that now that you are successful as a popular artist that you'd like to do any classical?

Yes, but I don't have time to think about it too much.

But you have to realise that when I'm most satisfied with my music, I call upon all the things that I've learned in classical music.

She wanted everything money and success could buy.

So I promised her that she was going to be a rich black bitch.

We had a blackboard and he used to put on there

"I'll be a rich black bitch"by this such and such date."

He said, "Then you could quit." I always believed him.

But I never could quit because he worked me too hard.

Andy said: "Nina, it's hard work.

"You want to make the money? You have to work."

And she resented that.

Then, Lisa was born and she resented being torn away, having to go on the road.

I didn't realise what my mom did for a living.

I just know that Mom was always travelling.

My mother often told me that I had 13 nannies in seven years.

While she was trying to maintain some sense of schedule for me and normalcy for me, she was out there doing what she was doing.

Can I have five more minutes? It's very frustrating...

When we were on the road, there were times we had to be careful.

She could get angry and start arguments with people.

You're all pushing, You're pushing.

Don't put nothin' in it. Let's do it again.

If anyone were talking in the audience, she would just sit.

First she would say: "Please..."

She said: "I'm not continuing."

She'd get up, walk out and the gig was over.

I just want them to listen to the music like they did in the classical world.

I thought they needed teaching.

If they couldn't listen, fuck it!

She got into Carnegie Hall, and she got the big house in the country, but she began questioning herself.

She'd get into moods of depression about the whole business, the personal relationship, cursing, smashing things, and it worsened as the time went by.

All I did was work, work, work.

I was always tired.

I was always tired.

I could never sleep.

You see, music always goes through my head, which means the more I played the less I could relax.

I kept thinking Andy should let me rest.

He never did.

Got my liver

She felt she was handled like a racehorse and she was always fighting... fighting, fighting it.

Andy would say: "Nina, we've got a career here.

That's not gonna continue if you don't nurture it.

So, she came to resent Andy.

But she was afraid of Andy.

Andrew protected me against everybody but himself.

He wrapped himself around me like a snake.

I worked like a dog and I was scared of him.

And Andrew beat me up...

I've never talked to you about this, but he beat me up. I was deathly scared of Andrew.

One time, early in the morning, like 4:00 or 5:00 o'clock,

the phone rings, it's Nina, and she needed to hide out.

I had gone to a discotheque with Andrew.

A fan came up to me and gave me a note.

Andy saw me take this note and put it in my pocket.

She thought nothing of it. She related this to me.

Andy came back and grabbed her arm and took her out from the place and beat her up.

When I got out on the street, he started raining blows on me, bloody blows.

He'd beat me all the way home, up the stairs, in the elevator, in my room, put a gun to my head.

Then he tied me up and raped me.

She came to my place and she was beat up.

And I put her to bed and she rested for a couple of days.

He didn't find me for two weeks My eyes... I couldn't see.

He said: "Who beat you up like that?"

I said: "You did." He said: "No, I didn't.

"I've been looking for you for two weeks."

I said: "You're insane."

He was brutal. But I loved him.

I guess, I just believed he wouldn't do it any more.

My mother always said till the day she died, Dad was the best manager that she ever had.

But on top of being charismatic he could be a bully, and he could be very mean.

And she was on the receiving end of that, more times than you know... she should have been, which should have been never.

Mom would allude to:

"He's rammed my head into a concrete wall."

She said that he punched her in the stomach when she was pregnant with me.

As a child I remember sitting in the car between them.

They were arguing about something and I remember my father reaching across me...

So I was like this... and backhanding her.

We're going home in the car, I'm driving and I slapped her.

Blood spurted right over this eyebrow.

She had, like, a one-inch cut from my ring.

We got her home and I clipped the skin together and taped it.

And a week later, there wasn't even a scar.

I think they were both nuts.

She stayed with him, she had this love affair with fire.

That's like inviting the bull with the red cape, "Just come on into my kitchen and let's see what we can do."

That's what she did.

What I want for her? Yes.

Myself, what else? I mean career-wise.

My father had a strategic plan in terms of how Mom's career was gonna go.

He wanted her to be able to win all the awards and to become the huge star he knew that she could be.

But she wanted something more.

There was something missing, in her...

Some meaning.

They died in Birmingham, the nation's most segregated city.

Dynamite exploded on Sunday morning.

Killed four little girls, injured 20 other Negroes.

It was one of more than 40 bombings in that Birmingham area.

Kids were murdered in Birmingham!

On a Sunday and in Sunday schools, in a Christian nation!

And nobody cares!

When the kids got killed in that church...

That did it.

First you get depressed and after that, you get mad.

When these kids got bombed, I just sat down and wrote this song.

And it's a very moving, violent song.

'Cause that's how I feel about the whole thing.

"Mississippi Goddam."

Phew! Hmm? Got my attention.

What she was doing was different.

There's something about a woman...

If you look at all the suffering that black folks went through...

Not one black man would dare say "Mississippi Goddam."

To have someone with her stature talking about your problem...

You know how happy they had to be?

We all wanted to say it.

She said it.

"Mississippi Goddam!"

For Mommy to write a song called "Mississippi Goddam" was revolutionary.

They didn't have cursing on the radio or on television.

DJs refused to play it and boxes of the 45s used to be sent back from the radio stations cracked in two.

As the civil rights movement really swung into high gear, she swung into high gear with it.

In '65, we played at the Selma March in Montgomery, Alabama.

We have a legal and constitutional right to march from Selma to Montgomery.

It was extremely dangerous.

The federal Marshals were called in.

They were standing on the top of all the buildings downtown, with guns.

Seated in front of the stage facing the audience was Martin Luther King, Ralph Bunche from the UN and a lot of other worldwide dignitaries.

You had Langston Hughes, James Baldwin, Sidney Poitier, Bill Cosby, Leonard Bernstein, Harry Belafonte.

And we did "Mississippi Goddam".

My mother said that after she sang that song she got so angry that her voice broke.

And from "Mississippi Goddam" on, it never, ever returned to its former octave.

But I think that Mom's anger is what sustained her.

The energy, the creativity and the passion of those days is really what kept her going.

When she wrote "Mississippi Goddam", I thought it was something else. You know, I liked it.

They put a 45 out on it. I knew it had a lot of impact.

But my complaint was that, while I was always pushing for the commercial side of the picture, she got sidetracked with all of these civil rights activities When the civil rights thing came, all of a sudden, I could let myself be heard about what I'd been feeling all the time.

When I was young, I knew to stay alive.

As a black family, we had to work at it.

We had to keep secrets.

We never complained about being poor, or being taken advantage of or not getting our share.

We had to keep our mouths shut.

As I walked across that railroad track every Saturday, I knew to break the silence meant a confrontation with the white people of that town.

Although I didn't know I knew it, if the black man rises up and says:

"I am not gonna do that any more..."

he stands to get murdered.

But no one mentioned that, which is indeed quite strange.

It touched me the first time, when I gave the recital at this library.

Everybody was seated and they told me my parents had to sit in the back.

I said: "If they have to sit in the back, I won't perform."

They fixed it that time.

They brought them to the front and they let them sit down.

It was my first feeling of being discriminated against.

I recoil in horror at such a thing.

I choose to reflect the times and the situations in which I find myself.

That, to me, is my duty...

And at this crucial time in our lives, when everything is so desperate, when every day is a matter of survival, I don't think you can help but be involved.

Young people, black and white know this.

That's why they are so involved in politics.

We will shape and mould this country, or it will not be moulded and shaped at all any more.

I don't think you have a choice...

How can you be an artist and not reflect the times?


I've always thought that I was shaking people up, but now I want to go at it more, I want to go at it more deliberately.

And I want to go at it coldly.

I want to shake people up so bad that when they leave a nightclub where I've performed...

I just want them to be to pieces.

All right!

I wanna go in that den of those elegant people with their old ideas, smugness and just drive them insane.

Rise up!

It's all right if you dance slow!

It was exhilarating to be part of that movement at the time, because I was needed. I could sing to help my people.

And that became the mainstay of my life.

Not classical piano, not classical music, not even popular music, but civil rights music.

I got to know Martin Luther King, Malcom X, Andrew Young and artists, actors, actresses, poets, writers, people like myself who felt compelled to make the stand that I have.

It was very important for her to connect with the writers and playwrights of that moment because those people had the intellectual background of the movement.

She didn't have that. She had the musical background.

For instance, Langston Hughes wrote the lyrics for "Backlash Blues" for her.

Lorraine Hansberry...

Nina took her play, "Young, Gifted and Black" and made a song out of it.

It's regarded as one of the most important songs in the civil rights movement.

I know there are only 300 black students here in this college of 18,000.

So, this song is dedicated only to you.

Lorraine Hansberry was my best friend.

She wrote plays, "Raisin in The Sun" and "Young, Gifted and Black".

She taught me a lot about Karl Marx, Lenin and philosophy.

The basic fabric of our society that has Negroes in the situation they are in is the thing, which must be changed.

Those times were pretty amazing.

I look back now and I'm like:

"Wow! Who's Who of Black America."

Lorraine Hansberry was my godmother, Malcom X's wife, Betty Shabazz, was my auntie.

They lived right next door in Mount Vernon.

There are six daughters and I was like the seventh.

I was always riding my bike over there.

Lisa and I were the same age I think we may have called one another twins.

It was just a great time.

There was music, there were discussions.

Whether it was at our house or Lisa's house, Nina Simone's home, it was definitely party with a purpose.

We happened to be a fly on the wall with some of the genius poets and poetesses of the time, the era.

To sit in that room and listen...

These were brilliant well-read, well-travelled, charming, alluring, charismatic people who were moved to make a difference in the world.

I am born of the Young, Gifted and Black affirmation.

For me, and those of us in that environment, it was daring to proclaim it.

And then share it joyously.

When she sang it...

People would stand up and engage in their African-ness without apology.

It's like a contemporary, hip song of the era.

It means you get to hum it in public.

She became a legend in the activists' movement.

And through meetings and discussions I overheard, she was convinced that certain things must be done in order to push the revolution.

I told her that's not the answer.

And it began to manifest in her attitude towards me and the business. She'd fly off.

I remember a few nights, you'd go to bed happy and holding one another and wake up...

She'd be sitting up in bed with her arms folded looking at me, thinking about killing me.

And this is how it went.

The political work became very heavy.

To me we are the most beautiful creatures in the whole world, black people.

So, my job is to make them more curious about where they came from.

And their own identity and pride in that identity.

That's why I try to make my songs as powerful as possible, mostly to make them curious about themselves.

We don't know anything about ourselves.

We don't even have the pride and dignity of African people.

We can't even talk about where we came from.

We don't know. It's like a lost race.

I really mean to provoke this feeling of "Who am I?" "Where do I come from?"

You know, "Do I really like me? and "Why do I like me?"

Like, you know, "If I'm black and beautiful, I really am and I know it, I don't care who cares or says what."

This is what compels me to push black people to identify with black culture.

Giving out to them that blackness, that black power.

Nina was a real rebel.

She didn't really fit in the revolutionary black female role that was offered her.

She could avoid pretentious phoniness and get more depth out of her song than people are used to hearing out of those songs.

She was that kind of patron saint of the rebellion.

Nina started to get more aggressive.

I remember one time as she walked to Dr King and said:

"I'm not non-violent."

He said: "That's OK, sister. You don't have to be."

I was never non-violent. Never.

I thought we should get our rights by any means necessary.

And then she met Stokely Carmichael.

Miss Simone says something very significant in her song "Mississippi Goddam".

She says, "This country is built on lies."

You're gonna sit in front of your television set and listen to LBJ tell you that

"Violence never accomplishes anything, my fellow Americans."

And the honky drafting you out of school to go fight in Vietnam.

If you don't want any trouble, keep your filthy white hands off our beautiful black skin.

Keep them off!

I am just one of the people who's sick of the social order, sick of the establishment, sick to my soul of it all.

To me, America's society is nothing but a cancer, and it must be exposed before it can be cured.

I am not the doctor to cure it.

All I can do is expose the sickness.

Are you ready, black people?


Are you ready, black people?


Are you really ready?


She wanted to align herself with the extreme terrorist militants who were influencing her.

And after all of these meetings with all these people, she would come to me and, "Let's get the guns. Let's poison the reservoir."

All sorts of violent terrorist acts.

Are you ready to call the wrath of black gods, black magic, to do your bidding?

Black people are never gonna get their rights unless they have their own separate state.

And if we'd have armed revolution, there'd be a lot of blood.

I think we'd have that separate state.

Are you ready to smash white things?


To burn buildings, are you ready?


At a certain point, Nina started to play only political songs and nothing else.

That started to hurt her career.

That became a problem to book her, because promoters were a bit afraid it might only be the political message that you were getting.

Are you ready to kill if necessary?


Is your mind ready? Yeah!

Is your body ready?


If I'd had my way, I'd have been a killer.

I would have had guns and I would have gone to the South and gave them violence for violence, shotgun for shotgun, but my husband told me...

I didn't know anything about guns and he refused to teach me.

The only thing I had was music, so I obeyed him.

If I'd had my way, I wouldn't be sitting here today.

I'd be probably dead.

Are you really, really, really ready?


She's putting down the white people...

You know, like a barking dog.

But she still wanted all the good things.

Whenever she'd see Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight and all of these people on the prime television shows, she, of course, was very upset because she wasn't able to get on to these shows because of her reputation.

It got so that there wasn't that much work and the expenses were high.

It was cutting the legs out from all the work that I had done.

See you later.

I'll see you later.

I remember my dad complaining about the fact she never stopped speaking out.

But that's who she was.

It was OK when you were on stage.

It's OK 'cause you let it all hang out and then when the show ends and the lights go out, "OK, let's put the monkey back in the cage and eat your banana, you know, just behave yourself."

It was like she was penalised and punished for being herself.

That's a very painful, lonely place to be.

Good evening.

Tonight my guest in the studio with me needs almost no introduction.

She is Miss Nina Simone.

Nina, when it comes to the artists today, we find that more of the artists are attempting to alert America to the need for change.

Is this really the artist's role?

Well, I think it's something that I've chosen to do and I've felt compelled to do it.

So it is my role... but sometimes, I wish it wasn't.

I think that the artists who don't get involved in preaching messages probably are happier.

But you see, I have to live with Nina and that is very difficult.

I think 19 people depend on me for their livelihood.

That's a hell of a lot of people.

I know that if I say, "Look, I'm too tired to work tonight, I'm gonna get it from both ends.

Nobody's gonna understand or care that I'm too tired.

I'm very aware of that.

Now, I would like some freedom, somewhere...

Where I didn't feel those pressures.

By the late '60s, I realised that Nina was fighting demons that could appear at any moment and you wouldn't know it.

She could get violent, she could get really physical, and the change in her would be dramatic...

Boom, like a switch.

After a while, I realised I wasn't with my sister...

I was with "that one".

And that one was menacing.

She was very concerned, in her sane moments, about these fits of depression and anger.

We even went to Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital, I think we signed her in for four or five days.

They conducted every test known to medicine at the time.

They were unable to find anything.

And her downward spiral, it just got worse and worse.

We did a tour with Bill Cosby, and the last night, she became erratic.

She had a can of shoe polish.

She was putting it in her hair.

She began talking gibberish...

She was totally out of it, incoherent.

It appeared she was having a nervous breakdown.

When it came time to go on, I had to escort her by holding her arm onto the stage and sat her down at the piano.

I immediately stood in the wings on the opposite side where we could see one another.

She's watching me pantomime and she performed.

Basically, she had no control over her emotions, and underneath it all, sex dominated her.

There were times, once or twice a week, when there was a sex attack when she goes into a maniacal rage.

There had to be sex. I mean, this is driving her.

My attitude towards sex was that we should have it all the time.

How did Andy act towards you?

I just wanted him to move me sexually, and he never was able to.


He didn't know how to touch me and he never had enough time.

He'd come to see me late at night and be there two hours and leave.

I knew that she was dating other people.

We agreed we could both have our own outside partners.

But we would work together for the sake of the business and the child.

I can't sit here and speak about Aunt Nina and Uncle Andy's marriage.

What I can say is that participation and activism during the '60s rendered chaos in any individual's lives.

People sacrificed sanity, well-being, life.

Nina Simone was a free spirit in an era that didn't really appreciate a woman's genius.

So what does that do to a household and a family?

Not because of income, but because of your soul not being able to do what you need to do.

Direct from our newsroom in Washington, this is the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite.

Good evening. Dr Martin Luther King, the apostle of non-violence in the civil rights movement, has been shot to death in Memphis, Tennessee.


There was shock in the nation's negro communities.

Men, women and children poured into the streets.

They appeared dazed. Many were crying.

I think White America made its biggest mistake when she killed Dr King last night.

He was the one man in our race who was trying to teach our people to have love, compassion and mercy for what white people had done.

When White America killed Dr King last night, she killed all reasonable hope.

We wanted to do a tune written for today, for this hour, for Dr Martin Luther King.

We had yesterday to learn it and...

So we'll see.

Last year, Lorraine Hansberry left us.

She was a dear friend.

Then Langston Hughes left us.

Who can go on?

Do you realise how many we have lost?

Then it really gets down to reality, doesn't it?

Not a performance.

Not microphones and all that crap, but really something else.

We can't afford any more losses Oh, no. Oh, my God.

They're shooting us down, one by one.

Don't forget that...

'Cause they are.

Killing us one by one.

I knew that we were lost.

I felt chased all the time, no matter what I did or how sad I got.

I felt that there was just no life for me in the country.

I knew I had to quit or I had to leave Andy or do something.

So I took my ring off, put it on the table and I left the country.

According to my godsister Attallah Shabazz...

I was staying with them, and Mom had gone away, and the phone would ring and whenever it would ring, I would go running, saying, "Is that my mommy on the phone?"

Then I remember going back to the house in Mount Vernon and Dad just wasn't there.

He wasn't there.

And nobody told me anything, you know?



One day you're at home and the staff is there, your dad's there the dog's there and everything that's familiar to you is there.

And then you come back, I don't know, weeks later and...

Nothing's there, nobody's there.

I decided that I wanted to go to Africa to live and never come back to America.

I got divorced from Andy and I went to Liberia and I moved there to stay.

When I got to Africa, I am happy, I'm beyond happy.

Liberia is a place that was founded by the American slaves, and it only makes sense that I should feel at home there.

Bikinis and boots is all I wore.


There was no loneliness. There was no boredom.

The days flew into nights, and you just couldn't keep up with the times

'cause there was so much to do. It was always fun.

I also am keenly aware that I've entered a world that I dreamed of all my life and that it is a perfect world.

I remember thinking of the United States as something that I had had in a dream sometime in my life but is now gone, like it never existed!

It was a dream that I had had and I had worked myself out of it because I had toiled so long in that place, in that prison...

And now I'm home, now I'm free, and there is no going back.

There, it was vast and open, and everything was natural.


I have seen lightning in Africa not flash, but hover, and what it does is it electrifies you into complete speechlessness.

I have seen it! I have seen God.

In my seventh grade year, Mom moved me to Liberia, but she was always travelling and I never knew half the time if I wasn't going, that she was leaving or when she was coming back.

So, I lived with a family for a year and I went to school there.

And I lived with them, until Mom came and decided to buy a house on the beach.

I went from living with them to living with her.

And she just...

I could never do anything right.

She went from being my comfort to the monster in my life.

Now she was the person that was doing the beating, and she was beating me.

One time, we were in public somewhere, I did something and she went off on me in front of everybody I didn't show any emotion because when Mom would see you cry she knew she could push your buttons. That's what she wanted.

And I would not give her that satisfaction.

When she would hit me, I would look her dead in her face.

She'd be like, "You better cry. You better cry."

I wouldn't do it.

Times got really bad, to the point where I thought about committing suicide.

So, when I was 14, I flew to New York.

I wound up living with my dad and I never went back.

After we broke up, a lot of things happened.

She didn't file taxes.

She didn't take care of business.

She lost the house in Mount Vernon.

Everything went crazy.

She lived a nomadic life, having no manager, having no husband but she always said living in Africa was the happiest time in her life.

She could just be there, enjoy herself.

She didn't have to sing at all.

She wasn't playing piano and she wasn't performing.

She said she hated the piano. She hated it.

Think about it. She's playing since she was four years old.

On the other hand, she was well aware in Africa, no money came in.

So she had to pick up her career again.

She didn't want to return to what she called, "The United Snakes of America."

So, she moved to Switzerland, which was the complete opposite of Africa.

The first thing she did was the Montreux concert.

You on, yeah?

Do you hear all those noises?

You didn't forget me, huh?

That's what's so wild, you didn't forget me.

I didn't expect you to.

But I'm tired.

You don't know what I mean.

And they are many people in show business who said:

"You know, she used to be a star.

She's gone all the way to the bottom" and all kinds of crap, which means nothing to me at all.

I hope that you will see me or see the spirit in another sphere, on another plane very soon now.

And again, I don't wanna let you down and I get this feeling.

So I think the only way to tell you who I am these days, is to sing a song by Janis Ian.

Hey, girl, sit down.

Sit down!

Sit down!

In Switzerland, I had no money.

I never got anything from Andy.

He just cut himself off from me and I was left high and dry.

So, I left Switzerland and I went to Paris, thinking I could resume my career.

I did it alone. And I landed in the wrong place I was working every night in a small café, for about $300 a night.

Do you speak English? Yes.

The show is over.

No, we just do " Vous Etes Seuls."

It goes like this.

I was desperate and no one believed I was there.

I was too big to be there. No one came to see me.

I had fallen from grace.

I'm sorry that I didn't become the world's first black classic pianist.

I think I would have been happier.

I'm not very happy now.

I wouldn't change being part of the civil rights movement.

I wouldn't change that.

But some of the songs that I sang have hurt my career.

All of the controversial songs the industry decided to punish me for.

They put a boycott on all of my records, and it's...

hard for me to incorporate those songs any more because they are not relevant to the times.

In terms of the civil rights movement, how far have we come?

There aren't any civil rights.

What do you mean?

There is no reason to sing those songs.

Nothing is happening.

There's no civil rights movement.

Everybody's gone.

I met Nina in 1967and I've been her friend all her life.

She called me in 1982 and she was here in Paris, living in a very small apartment, hardly with any money.

She did concerts of four hours long at Trois Mailletz, that nightclub, and she got a few hundred dollars a night.

That was the worst period.

I visited her in that little apartment and it was so dirty.

I cleaned it all up and...

"Nina, you can't live like this."

At that moment, she was still uncontrollable.

This thing in the Grand Hotel in Paris happened.

Somebody looked her in the eyes a bit too long, She was already a bit nervous and she kind of... made a movement, and I thought, "She's gonna hit him."

Immediately, my arms around her and I dragged her out in a taxi.

I said to the taxi driver, "Drive."

When I saw her in Paris, she was like a street urchin, dressed in rags.

I couldn't believe what was happening and I was really sad.

Gerrit and I knew something was very wrong.

We were trying to figure out, "What is it? What is it, really?"

So Gerrit found her a condo in Nijmegen in Holland Gerrit had a friend, a doctor, that he brought to Nina's place The doctor examined her and asked her questions, and he prescribed a medication, new spectrum, called Trilafon.

It wasn't until I was in my 20s that I went to visit her in Nijmegen.

That's when I learned the term "manic-depressive"and "bipolar" and I remember asking, "What is that?

What do you mean by that?"

And her mood swings and a lot of the things I dealt with earlier in life when one minute she'd be happy, the next minute...

I'd be dealing with someone that wasn't in the room five minutes ago.

It started to make sense.

She got so deep in the shit in the end that she realised it's either dying or give in.

And she gave in because we said, "Nina... we'll get you a house, we'll get you your musicians, we'll make the things all right around you, we'll book your concerts, but you have to do what we say.

You have to take your medicine. You have to work.

God has given you the possibility to be able to do what you do, so do it.

The only thing we want to hear is either 'yes' or 'no'."

She said, with tears in her eyes, "Yes."

When I saw her, I was very concerned because she had a nervous tic.

She'd be talking or sitting and this...

Her mouth would always be twitching.

When she would walk, it was more of a shuffle.

And I'm like, "What's going on here?"

You know, "Why... What's going on?

What am I missing?"

And they had her on medication.

She started taking the Trilafon and the doctor said, "Through the years, it's going to have an effect on her motor skills.

Her voice is going to start to slur and her piano abilities will decline.

You can deal with that or you can deal with her probably damaging herself or someone else."

But the Trilafon really helped.

There were times in Holland, sitting on her terrace in these lounge chairs and just holding hands...

She was like... She was my sister and not talking at all for hours, just enjoying the day.

I suppose that medication enabled her to perform and fulfil the business dealings that were taking place so that her career could get back on track.

But there were times when I questioned that.

"But what about her heart?"

Because at the end of the day, you guys got wives and husbands, and lives.

But she's alone.

My personal life is a shambles.

I've had a few love affairs and I would love to be married, but everything has had to be sacrificed for the music.

We had to do, first in Holland, eight concerts, and the word spread that Nina's doing the job well.

Then she was on the road again and it was... poof.

The business was going.

She came onstage and you had this overwhelming emotional feeling coming from the audience, just because she was there.

Now listen to me.

I love you very much. I think you know that.

And I know that you love me.

I know that.

We never knew too well what was going to happen and how the mood would be.

So this place is very hot, it's very crowded and it's very ugly.

But she opened her heart and soul at that moment.

This is a special kind of connection she had with an audience.

This song is popular all over France.

It's from our first album, the very first album we made in this world, which is at least 25 years old.

I only wish I was as wise...

I could have been as wise then as I have become now.

I have suffered.

But there's a Bösendorfer here, so we'll see what happened.

"My Baby Just Cares For Me."

She was helped by "My Baby Just Cares For Me", that song that became a hit because of the Chanel ad.

When "My Baby Just Cares For Me" came along, I said, "I have to take this opportunity now to go all over the world, because it's my last chance."

So, I worked very hard to take advantage of my second coming because it was my last time as far as I was concerned.

She was happiest doing music. I think that was her salvation.

That's the one thing she didn't have to think about.

When she sat at the piano, her fingers could fly.

She was an anomaly, she was a genius, she was brilliant.

That brilliance shone through, no matter what she was going through.

Even into her old age, she was brilliant.

She was genius. She could do whatever she liked.

And when she didn't have her medicine, she, musically, could get even further out.

In one of those little concerts, and it's recorded, she starts playing one song and she sings another.

At this recording, I made Miles Davis...

While we were on tour, we were on the same jazz tour as Miles Davis...

And I made him listen to it and he said, "Let me listen to it again. How is she doing this?"

He couldn't understand.

As I got older, I started to look at her and I thought to myself, "Wow, she's from another time."

But she was not at odds with the time.

Time was at odds with her.

I think when a person moves to their own kind of clock, spirit, flow, if we were living in an environment that allowed us to be exactly who we are, you're always in congress with yourself.

The challenge is, "How do we fit in in the world that we're around?"

"Are we allowed to be exactly who we are?"

"Was Nina Simone allowed to be exactly who she was?"

As fragile as she was strong, as vulnerable as she was dynamic, she was African royalty.

How does royalty stomp around in the mud and still walk with grace?

Most people are afraid to be as honest as she lived.

Good night!

All right!


It's so hard!