Inspired by the Academy Award-nominated Netflix documentary What Happened, Miss Simone?, an intimate and vivid look at the legendary life of Nina Simone, the classically trained pianist who evolved into a chart-topping chanteuse and committed civil rights activist.
From music journalist and former Spin and Vibe editor-in-chief Alan Light comes a biography of incandescent soul singer and Black Power icon Nina Simone, one of the most influential, provocative, and least understood artists of our time. Drawn from a trove of rare archival footage, audio recordings and interviews (including Simone's remarkable private diaries), this nuanced examination of Nina Simone’s life highlights her musical inventiveness and unwavering quest for equality, while laying bare the personal demons that plagued her from the time of her Jim Crow childhood in North Carolina to her self-imposed exile in Liberia and Paris later in life.
Harnessing the singular voice of Miss Simone herself and incorporating candid reflections from those who knew her best, including her only daughter, Light brings us face to face with a legend, examining the very public persona and very private struggles of one of our greatest artists.
A veteran music journalist, ALAN LIGHT is the author of The Holy or the Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley and the Unlikely Ascent of "Hallelujah" and Let's Go Crazy: Prince and the Making of Purple Rain. Light was previously the editor-in-chief of Vibe and Spin and a senior writer for Rolling Stone. He is also a frequent contributor to the New York Times.
Praise for What Happened, Miss Simone? and Nina Simone
“Alan Light has written an electrifying, humane, and dimensional biography of one of my favorite artists in the entire world. I learned so much about a woman I admire, the woman whose fiery piano and voice is a powerful reminder of what artists are meant to do! What Happened, Miss Simone? captures how unique and real she was on every page.”
“A spellbinding portrait of a musical genius, a woman both ahead of her time and of it. In What Happened Miss Simone?, Alan Light resurrects the High Priestess of Soul with profound sympathy and masterful storytelling.”
–Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson, author of Mo’ Meta Blues and Something to Food About
“Nina Simone was an overwhelming artist, piano player, and singer—the kind of artist that I loved and admired.”
“Nina Simone’s music helped us to navigate the contradictions that propelled the black struggle forward… Her phenomenal voice beckoned us toward the battle to come.”
“What Happened, Miss Simone? is the engaging biography of the troubled soul heroine... As Light shows, her intensity fueled music that reflected and transformed the volatile America of her times.”
“[Nina Simone's] willingness to speak her mind shines out of every page of Alan Light's biography.”
–The Times (UK)
“A probing account of Simone’s inner struggles...Far from detracting from her civil rights heroism, it makes that achievement all the more astonishing.”
–The New York Review of Books
“Simone was a genius. Her triumphs and troubles share the stage in Light's pitch-perfect biography, What Happened, Miss Simone?.”
“Cleareyed and well-balanced, respectful rather than worshipful.”