NEW YORK (AP) – Nina Simone, the jazz great whose raspy, forceful voice helped define the civil rights movement, died Monday at her home in France, according to her U.S. booking agent. She was 70.
Though she remained a top concert draw in her later years, she was quite frail.
At a 2001 concert at Carnegie Hall, she had to be helped to the stage, and was later seen sitting backstage in a wheelchair.
Eric Hanson, an agent with her U.S. booking agency Ted Kurland Associates, confirmed the death to The Associated Press.
Born Eunice Kathleen Waymon in Tryon, N.C., she was a classically trained pianist whose songs ranged from blues to spirituals to classical fare. But she gained fame in 1959 with her recording of "I Loves You Porgy," from the musical "Porgy & Bess."
She later became a voice of the civil rights movement, with her song "Mississippi Goddam," and later, "To Be Young, Gifted and Black."
Simone spent much of her recent time in France, and in a 1998 interview blamed racism in the United States for her decision to live abroad, saying that as a black person she has "paid a heavy price for fighting the establishment." She did not elaborate but said racial inequality in the United States was "worse than ever."
She left the United States in 1973 and lived in the Caribbean and Africa before settling in Europe.
Simone, who had a regal presence onstage, enjoyed perhaps her greatest success in the 1960s and 70s, with songs like "I Want A Little Sugar in My Bowl," and "Peaches."
She recorded songs from as diverse as Bob Dylan to the Bee Gees and made them her own. Perhaps one of her more popular covers was her version of Dylan's "House of the Rising Sun."
She was survived by a daughter, Lisa, according to her personal manager, Clifton Henderson.
Copyright © 2003 The Associated Press