The feminist writer Germaine Greer once declared: "Every generation has to discover Nina Simone. She is evidence that female genius is real." This year, that just might happen for good.
Simone is striking posthumous gold as the inspiration for three films and a star-studded tribute album, and she was name-dropped in John Legend's Oscar acceptance speech for best song. This flurry comes on the heels of a decadelong resurgence: two biographies, a poetry collection, several plays and the sampling of her haunting contralto by hip-hop performers including Jay Z, the Roots and Kanye West.
Fifty years after her prominence and 12 years after her death in 2003, Simone is now reaching her peak.
The documentary "What Happened, Miss Simone?," directed by Liz Garbus and due Wednesday in New York and two days later on Netflix, opens by exploring Simone's unorthodox blend of dusky, deep voice, classical music, gospel and jazz piano techniques, and civil rights and black-power activism.
She also broadened the parameters of the great American pop artist. "How can you be an artist and not reflect the times?" Simone asks in the film. "That to me is the definition of an artist." And in "What Happened," Simone emerges as a singer whose unflinching pursuit of musical and political freedom establishes her appeal for contemporary activism.
"Nina has never stopped being relevant because her activism was so right on, unique," Garbus said.
New York Times