Nina Simone on how fury fuelled her songs

“I suppose in my solitude I still regret that I didn’t become it, because you get an audience who listens to music, who do not smoke, who do not drink and they have come to listen to you. And it’s the world’s most revered kind of music, classical music is, all over Europe and all over the world. It’s regarded as the highest and, of course, I always wanted to be associated with the highest type of music so in that sense I regret it,” she told the BBC.

Perhaps though, given her gifts, background and the tumultuous times she was living through, she would have always felt compelled to use her art as a platform to fearlessly speak out, whatever path had been open to her.

“I choose to reflect the times and the situations in which I find myself,” she said in an interview in 1969. “That, to me, is my duty. At this crucial time in our lives when everything is so desperate, when every day is a matter of survival, I don’t think you can help but be involved.

“How can you be an artist and not reflect the times? That, for me, is the definition of an artist.”

In History is a series which uses the BBC’s unique audio and video archive to explore historical events that still resonate today.

If you liked this story, sign up for The Essential List newsletter – a handpicked selection of features, videos and can’t-miss news delivered to your inbox every Friday.

If you would like to comment on this story or anything else you have seen on BBC Culture, head over to our Facebook page or message us on Twitter.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *