Northeast Times

Simone is following in her mother’s footsteps

Si­mone

Start­Frag­ment

Jazz and blues sing­er Nina Si­mone, con­sidered by many to be one of the finest sing­ers and song­writers of her gen­er­a­tion, died nearly a dec­ade ago.

But the mu­sic con­tin­ues in the form of her only child, a mul­ti­tal­en­ted vo­cal artist known only as Si­mone, who is very much her moth­er’s daugh­ter.

With an im­press­ive re­sume in­clud­ing two star­ring roles in Broad­way mu­sic­als, Si­mone will take the stage at the Annen­berg Cen­ter for the Per­form­ing Arts on Sat­urday, March 17. Join­ing her on the double bill will be the young­est mem­ber of the first fam­ily of jazz, Jason Mar­s­al­is.

“Need­less to say, my moth­er had a huge in­flu­ence on me,” Si­mone said. “But be­cause her jour­ney in the mu­sic in­dustry wasn’t ex­actly a bed of roses, she wasn’t thrilled with my choice to go in­to the in­dustry my­self.“

Nina Si­mone be­came one of the most power­ful sym­bols of the civil rights move­ment in the ’60s and suffered from her out­spoken songs and deeds, abandon­ing Amer­ica even­tu­ally to live out the rest of her life in France.

“And be­cause my moth­er had a hard time sep­ar­at­ing her ex­per­i­ences from what my ex­per­i­ences could be, she didn’t want me to go through the same sort of pain, heartache and dis­ap­point­ments,” her daugh­ter said. “On one hand, she lauded my singing tal­ent and loved watch­ing me per­form. On the oth­er hand, she tried des­per­ately to keep me from go­ing through all the sharks in the bloody wa­ters that were sure to fol­low.”

And so Si­mone listened to her moth­er, for­got her own dream and went in­to the mil­it­ary. She served in the U.S. Air Force for more than 10 years.

“But there was a fire in my belly that just wouldn’t go away,” she ex­plained. “I hated what I was do­ing and couldn’t ima­gine do­ing it for the rest of my life. I wanted to make a dif­fer­ent choice, and that’s when mu­sic came back in­to my life. I couldn’t es­cape from the joy that came to me when I sang, and I real­ized that’s how I wanted to live my life.”

For­tu­nately, Si­mone seems to have made it through the very roughest of times that plagued her moth­er. Her Broad­way role in Aida garnered her the Na­tion­al Broad­way Theat­er Award for Best Act­ress in a Mu­sic­al. And for her ap­pear­ance in Rent, she was nom­in­ated for the Helen Hayes and Jef­fer­son Awards for her role as Mimi Mar­quez.

In­flu­enced by many oth­er artists — in­clud­ing Li­onel Ritch­ie, the Jack­son 5, Aretha Frank­lin, the mu­sic of Mo­town and so much more — Si­mone said her mu­sic is a di­verse com­bin­a­tion of pop, soul, jazz, rock and funk.

“Grow­ing up, I listened to everything and the ra­dio was very pre­val­ent in my home,” she ex­plained. “I guess you could call me the ra­dio-listen­ing queen. I could sing along with hun­dreds of songs, and in my rep­er­toire I still prefer to do the same thing.”

And that’s ex­actly what audi­ences can ex­pect to hear at Annen­berg, she ad­ded, along with a pre-show talk with her.

“I really like to meet my audi­ence, shake their hands, let them take pic­tures, and get to know me. I think that sets me aside from a lot of oth­er artists, and it’s something I do of­ten,” she said.

In 2008, Si­mone pro­duced her one and only CD to date, titled Si­mone on Si­mone, a big band trib­ute to her moth­er.

“It’s my way to give a glimpse of my life over the dec­ades,” she said, “and a chance for me to do the songs I love the most the way I first heard them and still hear them today.”

In 2010, Si­mone re­cor­ded a new ver­sion of her moth­er’s ori­gin­al clas­sic, Four Wo­men for Tyler Perry’s film, For Colored Girls Who Have Con­sidered Sui­cide When the Rain­bow is En­uf.

En­cour­aged by the con­tin­ued sup­port around her, Si­mone said her com­mit­ment today “is to keep singing, keep writ­ing, keep per­form­ing, and keep spread­ing the word of heal­ing and love.” ••

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