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I Put a Spell on You: The Autobiography of Nina Simone Hardcover – Mar 1992


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Product details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Pantheon Books (Mar 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679410686
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679410683
  • Product Dimensions: 1.9 x 16.5 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,574,558 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

Lincoln Center Institute Resource Center blog, 7/9/09 "Compelling, honest, and powerful. It is meticulously packed with historical information on America during some of its ugliest times, coming from the voice of someone who lived through it everyday...a voice of a woman who devoted her adult life to changing the face of society...From a musical standpoint alone, I Put a Spell On You is an extremely valuable read. However, this would also be a unique, relevant and worthwhile addition to any high-school or collegiate history library, or anyone with an interest in the civil rights movement both politically and artistically." --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Around 1855 in North Carolina a shoot-out took place between some white settlers and the last band of hostile Indians left hiding out in the mountains. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By M. Shankland on 27 Aug 2008
Format: Paperback
Perhaps one of the most angry books one will ever read: The incredible account of how one Eunice Kathleen Waymon, born to a Black family in South Caroline, a piano playing child prodigy tried to become a professional classical pianist. As a student she began to play in night-clubs to fund her studies and changed her name to Nina Simone so that her mother wouldn`t find out. One night the manager told her to start singing as well or get fired. Nina started using her voice, got an increasing following, cut her own version of `I loves You Porgy' and began to gain an audience with the New York Beatniks, along with Bill Cosby, John Coltrane, and Bob Dylan. She married got divorced, re-married, her career was on the rise.

But Nina was not going to go to be assimilated easily. Her sense of duty towards Black Americans gave her an edge in an era where the Civil Rights Movement was beginning to have an impact, and the fact that she began to meet some of America's top Back Intellectuals such as Langston Hughes, James Baldwin, Stokey Carmichael meant Nina couldn't remain neutral. In 1963 some white supremacists burned a church, killing four young Black girls. When the news broke Nina's husband and manager Andy found her in the garage looking for materials to assemble a zip gun. She was persuaded out of going to the Southern states to seek revenge, but to write `Mississippi Goddam', a show tune with an absolutely furious message.

Though friends with Martin Luther King junior, as the 1960's wore on, Nina didn't accept non-violence and was more accepting of Black Power.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By M. Mitreva on 19 Jan 2010
Format: Paperback
A unique performer, Nina Simone is one of the most beloved artists of the 20th century. "I put a spell on you" provides information and insight about the experiences and hard work that shaped her personality and art, and led her to her path in music. The book, written by Nina Simone herself, tracks her life from early childhood onwards and provides detailed information about her desires, dreams, motivation, disappointments and struggles in life and art.
It's a wonderful book and I'd recommend it to anybody who wants to know more about the life of Nina Simone.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Richard Vernon on 24 Aug 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book isn't all that long, but it is very interesting. It really does seem to have been mostly written by Nina with minimal help from the co-author Stephen Cleary, and there's quite a bit about her childhood, both the good and bad aspects, and also a fair bit about her love-life. I have to admit this surprised me, as I knew she was brought up in a very religious family, and there's even a bit about her mental health problems. It IS Nina Simone as seen by Nina Simone, but it is fairly honest. I can recommend this book to all of her many fans.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Tim in Glasgow on 15 Aug 2012
Format: Paperback
I found this a compelling read. A fairly slim book, it's very well written and the pages slip by without you noticing. This is a completely unique story about a musical prodigy, growing up in an economic depression with a highly religious mother and caring for a sick father, following a classical dream, ending up in a hugely successful, but accidental career, becoming a hero of the civil rights movement almost before finding an interest in politics and fighting the music industry at every step of the way.

It adds context to some of her most famous songs, and also gives extra depth to the character that comes across through all of her music. Helping to explain the paradox of a woman whose shyness left her friendless in strange cities for years on end, and yet on occasions when the music took her, was happy to dance naked on a night out clubbing in Liberia.

Moving and joyous in equal measure, it makes you realise that Nina Simone was not just any other musician. Her upbringing, training as a classical pianist while at the same time improvising in a gospel church, gave her the ability to perform for hours on end without break, without repetition and without any kind of set playlist or preparation. She could literally sit down and play, taking her audience on a journey and getting them high on the music that made every performance unique.

And yet despite all this talent, she struggled to make ends meet, making one disastrous management decision after another, and struggled more than anything to find the dependable equal she desparately desired to be her partner.

If you have any interest in Nina Simone as an artist, you'll find this book essential reading.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Page Turner on 27 Jun 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I found myself being very surprised all the way through this book when you see Nina on a TV program singing, or being interviewed Nina comes across as being quite ordinary but some how different; the same when you hear her songs on the radio theres something about her voice the tone, the resonance the delivery, there is something quite fascinating and curious. The thing that you cannot quite put your finger on is behind the face and voice was a very talented and unusally gifted child protege, an exquisite ear for music, classical, the piano, reading and writing music and a benefactor in the form of a well to do white lady who dispite the climate of segregation saw her talent and nurtured it with free classical lessons and tuition, she became part of the family. This also took her away from her community which was the other side of the tracks most black families worked for white households communting to a side of town they only went to for work; Ninas parents were no different they worked very hard, her father turning his hand to anything to keep a roof over the familys heads even though he fell ill and could no longer work, times were very hard but they managed. Of course the inevitable happened when it came time to gain entrance to a prestigious school of Music she failed the exam not because she did not do well, but rather the school did not want her kind and certainly not one with that much talent. Some parts of the book are very funny Nina would play the worst dives, clubs and dance halls frequented by people of the night and she would turn up in full regalier long dress bows and feathers the drunk at the end of the bar would look and wonder what planet she was on..Read more ›
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