What Happened Miss Simone - Book Review

What Happened Miss Simone - Book Review magazine cover


A biography by Alan Light and published by Canongate Books.

The music of Nina Simone, born Eunice Kathleen Waymon, is known to everyone, although it wasn’t until the likes of ‘My Baby Just Cares For Me’ and ‘Ain’t Got No/I Got Life’ were used for advertising Chanel No.5 and Müller yogurts respectively, that many awoke to the music of the woman who reluctantly accepted the title of the ‘High Priestess of Soul’.

Having taken to the piano at a very young age, Nina had set her dreams and ambitions on becoming a concert pianist, but much to her disappointment was rejected by the prominent Curtis Institute in Philadelphia. In her own mind, this was down the fact that she was black, not that she wasn’t good enough. This, added to the fact that her parents were once asked to move to the back of the hall when she gave her first piano recital could arguably be the sparks which ignited the flame for her long association with the American Civil Rights movement.

But the concert halls loss was the smokey night club’s gain and from then on it was something of a maelstrom existence in both her musical and personal life as she looked for acceptance and love. Violence was often not far away, while audiences could never be certain if they would enjoy a night of her undoubted talent or the sharp end of her tongue.

This book perhaps centres more on the problems of her personal life than her musical achievements, but then again, perhaps there is more of the former than the latter and they go a long way in explaining the problems that encircled her career.


Her story was certainly one that I knew little, or perhaps more accurately, knew nothing about and upon reading the fourteen and a half page introduction, I thought I was in for something of a rollercoaster ride through the life and tumultuous career of a musical superstar. However, if I am totally honest, it left me slightly deflated, perhaps even assaulted by the events surrounding the life of a truly talented woman.

There is little within this 320 page book to bring a smile to the face, as it is a sometimes harrowing story. But if biographies are your thing, or if you simply want to know more about Nina Simone, then this particular title is worth reading.

Iain McCartney
March 2015


ISBN: 9781782118732


Hardcover and ebook versions available



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Roburt profile photo


There must be 9 or more books about the complex Miss Simone. Just about all of them deal with her troubled life and strained relationships (both with partners & record companies), but there is no denying her musical genius.

This book joins a 'crowded market' where older attempts to document her life are currently selling for just pence on-line & in 2nd hand book shops. I wish it well but will (for the present) stick with the 2 books on her I already own. 

Roburt profile photo


Nina drew much criticism from the press down the years. The song "4 Women" that she wrote & performed really got them going at her .......

.... does it get a mention at all in this book ?



Roburt profile photo

Posted (edited)

A fascinating chapter of her life / career was the long spell she was married to (& managed by) Andy Stroud. He would tour with her (he came to the UK in the 60's & maybe 70's as well). Of course they owned (& he ran) Ninandy Records. Nina 'discovered' the Swordsmen while gigging in Cleveland & they were signed to the couple's label. When Nina landed a deal with RCA, they took on some Ninandy artists, the Swordsmen being the main one. So the group had NS / AS connected releases from 67 (?) thru to 71.

Any mention of Ninandy & the Swordsmen (Eddie Anderson & Ray Thompson) in this book ? 


Edited by Roburt
Kris Holmes profile photo

Posted (edited)

so this book accompanies the documentary of the same name that recently came out? i enjoyed the doco but as alluded to above, it didn't bring anything new to the table.

Edited by Kris Holmes
Souledtrafford profile photo


On ‎10‎/‎03‎/‎2016 at 10:02, Roburt said:

Nina drew much criticism from the press down the years. The song "4 Women" that she wrote & performed really got them going at her .......

.... does it get a mention at all in this book ?



Yes, there is reference to "Four Women" - "... greatest contribution in 1966 (and amongst her most important works ever). A song only her black audiences could truly understand. It then goes on to describe the @Four Women' in detail.

There is no reference to either Anderson or Thompson within the book.

Roburt profile photo


A bit from another publication about "Four Women" ..........


luckedog profile photo


Overrated pop/novelty singer pushed hard on the public by the record industry now and then (when the industry was beginning to realize that controversy sells).

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