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on 27 August 2008
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. By 1968 Nina portrays the USA as being on the verge of civil war, and she remembers the activists who lost their lives in the struggle and begins to castigate the leadership of the movement for what she sees as its failures to carry on the fight.

Then the book seems becomes a procession of resentments. Nina leaves the United States in 1974 disgust at the political situation and abandons her marriage. Spells in Barbados, Liberia ( with unsuccessful love affairs), Switzerland , Paris follow, but by 1978 her career is in disarray. Her ex husband and manager had not being sorting out taxes, her personal affairs and business concerns were in a sheer mess. A supposed promoter takes Nina to London to get her career going. It turns out he is a swindler, and leaves her beaten unconscious in a hotel room with unpaid bills. Nina takes an overdose. Not surprisingly the Music Industry is savagely indicted throughout the biography.

After this point `I Put A Spell On You' seems to rush forward. Nina relocates to France, starts recording and touring. There are enough fans to re-kindle interest in her work . And by 1985 , `My Baby Just Cares For Me' an obscure LP track that Nina had first recorded in 1957 , used for commercial brings Nina back into the public eye. She has survived, though is never reconciled to the USA.

Now and then one longs for some more humour, such as the account of Nina, after a few gins, making a pass at Louis Farrakhan.

The book is short, 176 pages, and came out in 1991- Nina was to live for another twelve years -so is incomplete. The lack of dates in the text makes it hard to follow at times. But overall this autobiography gives an unique insight to one of the most versatile and interesting figures in modern popular music.
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on 19 January 2010
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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on 24 August 2008
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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on 27 June 2012
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.. then she would launch into a Beethoven concerto or sonata the punters thought she was nuts, but they kept coming night after night to hear this strange women she never let the venue or crowd comprise her standards and ethics. The marriages and men in her life; there was one constant she always had to work because when she finally looked into her finances she owed the tax man thousands, her money had been squandard by those she trusted so she always had to tour and go back on the road. The book is a very good read but you do get the impression that she holds back on some level as when you hear other people talking about Nina she definitley has a wild side, you get glimpes of this in the book. She handles the ups and downs with grace and goodness. I am pretty sure millions of black people especially during that time had dreams that would never be realised no matter how gifted they were. Nina is a wonderful example of not letting life get you down she had an immense gift and talent which dispite the obsticles she managed to share with millions the world over.
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on 15 August 2012
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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on 11 February 2012
Having admired the music of Nina Simone for years, I decided I wished to know more about the inspiration behind the songs. This book gives a wonderful insight to the life behind the performances, her great loves and is enlightening as to Nina Simone's musical genius. After reading, I feel I have not only a deeper understanding of Nina's music, but also feel closer to the woman herself through having read of so many of her most intimate experiences. I recommend this book whole-heartedly.
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on 17 April 2012
This is the kind of story you somehow wish you could forget. Turn the clock back and just enjoy the music she made.
This is not to say the book isn't interresting. It's very much so. It will give you a very disturbing look into a persons life. A look that will stay with you. The music comes second in this book. The private person is in focus.
The private person is unhappy, frail, confused, overjoyed, insecure... A person that didn't find balance and peace in herself or her relation to "the world".
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on 25 July 2013
I brought this book for my sister as a birthday present and she loves Nina, the book has some really nice pictures of her life from young to the current age. Although the book is not mine to read I would recommend for anyone who loves the legend
Happy reading

Amanda from Barking Essex
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on 10 March 2011
Nina Simone wrote this book. There might have been a little bit of help from
Stephen Cleary but it's Nina's words that shine through.

Throughout the book there is a sense of anger, innocence and sometimes desolation but for those of us who listen to Nina as she sings there's no surprise there.

Sometimes she's a petulant child, sometimes pampered, othertimes not getting her own way. Throughout though she makes powerful statements about how she feels.

The book reads exactly as anyone who knows her singing career should expect - enjoy it and feel her truth.
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on 4 June 2013
you really should read this! A well-written autobiography of an exceptional life, which seems to come from the heart. It gives the context to her music. As in all autobiographies there are tantalising omissions!
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