Nina Simone drew upon gospel, classical, jazz and pop music to forge an eclectic career that included over 40 albums. How many other artists could successfully cover Kurt Weill & Bertolt Brecht (“Pirate Jenny”) and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins (“I Put A Spell On You”)? Her highly skilled piano playing helped her navigate so many styles. Nina was also a civil rights activist and incorporated songs like her “Mississippi Goddam” and Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit” into her records and performances.
In 1966 she wrote and recorded “Four Women”, where she sings in character as four very different African-American women shaped by slavery and segregation. Some critics feel that “Pirate Jenny” was a explicit influence. Most listeners will have a strong emotional response to this signature piece.