40 Best Nina Simone Songs (The Legend Slot)

40 Best Nina Simone Songs (The Legend Slot) - Female Original

The Legend Slot is officially back! After starting the year with a mini break from working on this series, I’m fully back on board. But…with a *slightly* new approach to how I’m doing things. If you’ve followed along with The Legend Slot so far then you’ll know that it’s an ongoing blog series where I listen to all of the studio albums of a specific iconic musician or band in one month. Then I’ll put together a playlist of the songs that I thought were their best. As well as this I write about the artist(s) and give an insight into what some of my favourite songs of theirs were along the way.

Moving into this year’s posts, most of the original format is staying exactly the same. However, instead of the time constraint of listening to all of the albums in one month, I’m giving myself between one and two months to get the listening done. I wanted to give myself a chance to listen to the albums a few times, and really think about the songs that I was picking for the series. And I think that the deadline of sharing a new artist every month meant that it was really hard to get everything done. So, I’m adapting this new approach of listening to this year’s Legend Slot posts, and we’ll see where it takes us.

For the thirteenth post in The Legend Slot I’ve chosen classical, jazz and blues legend Nina Simone. I listened to ALL of her studio albums and picked out 40 of the best Nina Simone songs. If you’re new to the series then you can head on back to artist number 1 here and work your way through.

I Put A Spell On You (1965) album cover - 40 Best Nina Simone Songs (The Legend Slot) - Female Original

‘I Put A Spell On You’ (1965) – Nina Simone.

Nina Simone: A Brief History

Born in Tyron, North Carolina in 1933, Nina Simone (born Eunice Kathleen Waymon) was an American singer, songwriter and musician known for her work across music genres including classic, jazz, blues, folk and gospel. Having spent her youth playing in her local church before then moving to teaching music to local students, it wasn’t until she auditioned to perform at the Midtown Bar & Grill in Atlantic City in 1954 that her career began. A few years later she caught the attention of a music producer and went on to record her first album (released in 1959).

Over the course of her six decade-long career, Nina Simone received a number of awards and recognitions. In 2000 she received a Grammy Hall of Fame Award, as well as a total of four Grammy Award nominations (two of which were received posthumously). She was also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2018. As well as her career in music, Nina Simone also was very involved in civil rights activism.

Wild Is The Wind (1966) album cover - 40 Best Nina Simone Songs (The Legend Slot) - Female Original

‘Wild Is The Wind Title’ (1966) – Nina Simone.

In 2003, Nina Simone sadly passed away after several years of battling breast cancer. Two days before her death, she found out that she was to be awarded an honorary degree from the Curtis Institute of Music (who had previously refused to admit her as a student back in her early career). If you want to learn a little bit more about Nina Simone you can check out her full biography here.

40 Best Nina Simone Songs (The Legend Slot): The Playlist

A Few Of My Favourites…

So…let’s talk favourites. First up I’ve chosen Baltimore from the album Baltimore (1978). It’s a song that I only really discovered around a year ago and I actually ended up featuring it in my walking playlist. Fun fact, it was written by Randy Newman (yep, Toy Story’s You’ve Got A Friend In Me writer Randy Newman). Another favourite, which has also been featured on here before, is Strange Fruit from Pastel Blues (1965). If you know your music samples then you’ll know that this was sampled in Kanye West’s Blood On The Leaves. I just couldn’t not feature it, it’s such a brilliant tune.

Silk & Soul (1967) album cover - 40 Best Nina Simone Songs (The Legend Slot) - Female Original

‘Silk & Soul’ (1967) – Nina Simone.

Of course the likes of ‘My Baby Just Cares For Me’ from Little Girl Blue (1959) , ‘I Put A Spell On You’ and ‘Feeling Good’ both from I Put A Spell On You (1965) and ‘I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free’ from Silk & Soul (1967) are favourites too. But, I mean, surely they’re everyone’s favourites right? They’re the ultimate Nina Simone tunes.

New Discoveries

My knowledge of Nina Simone’s music was probably fairly similar to that of my knowledge of Prince’s going into this post. I pretty much only knew her biggest hits and a couple of other slightly less big hits. So when it came to new discoveries there were plenty of them for sure. And it didn’t take long for me to come across some new tunes that quickly turned into new favourites. The first few came from her first album Little Girl Blue (1959) and they were ‘He Needs Me‘ and ‘I Loves You, Porgy‘.

He Needs Me’ was actually originally from the soundtrack of the 1955 musical-crime film Pete Kelly’s Blues. And it was performed by Peggy Lee who also starred in the film. ‘I Loves You, Porgy’ was, again, a song that originally came from elsewhere. However, in this case it came from the 1935 opera Porgy and Bess which featured music and lyrics by George and Ira Gershwin.

Little Girl Blue (1959) album cover - 40 Best Nina Simone Songs (The Legend Slot) - Female Original

‘Little Girl Blue’ (1959) – Nina Simone.

Some of my other new discoveries were ‘You’ve Got To Learn‘ from I Put A Spell On You (1965) and ‘Lilac Wine‘ from Wild Is The Wind (1966). As I’ve said, there were absolutely loads of new tracks this time but these two were the ones that stood out to me the most. If you’re going to listen to one of the four that I’ve featured then I’d definitely say make it ‘He Needs Me’.

And that’s Nina Simone. It feels good to have this series back on track with a new approach. Hopefully you’re excited to see its return! Have you listened to much of Nina Simone’s music before? Which tracks of hers are your favourites? Make sure to let me know in the comments. AND if you have any suggestions for the series then go ahead and comment them too. I want to know who you think is Legend Slot worthy.

Female Original

Some other legends that you need to check out: Elton John and Aretha Franklin.

*Photography taken from Discogs.

38 thoughts on “40 Best Nina Simone Songs (The Legend Slot)

  1. I didn’t know about this series of yours and can I just say how excited it makes me?! I need to get back and check the previous ones! I know a few songs from Nina Simone, but I would say I knew nothing of her story or why she started – so thank you so much for sharing! I’ll go catch up with the rest of the serie! xx

    1. Ahh thank you so much – glad you like the sound of the series! I hope you enjoyed learning a bit more about her 🙂 x

  2. Scrolling through the playlist you have curated I am already in love with the story told by the titles alone, so I look forward to listening to the music! I love that you are constantly on the hunt for the history and music of powerful songwriters; I had not heard of Nina Simone until now. Thanks so much for sharing!

    1. Ahh thank you so much! Oh wow – you’re going to enjoy discovering her music for the first time then 🙂 x

  3. I’m slightly ashamed to say that Nina Simone is someone I know very little about and only really know the huge songs that everyone knows. I need to give your playlist a listen x

    1. Definitely isn’t something to be ashamed of! That’s the whole point of this series after all – to discover new music! I hope you enjoy giving her music a listen 🙂 x

  4. Wow! Nina Simone sounds like an amazing person and artiste. Unfortunately, this is the first time I am hearing about her and I have never listened to any of her songs before either. I will definitely check her out! I know Elton John and his songs are just wonderful!!

  5. I absolutely love your Legend Slot series! I didn’t know much about Nina Simone before reading this, but now I definitely want to check out some of her music. Thank you for sharing this!

  6. Sadly I haven’t listened to any Nina Simone songs so I can’t comment my thoughts on any of her songs but I’m going to give her a listen!

    Tash – A Girl with a View

    1. Aw thanks so much! Agreed – I loved getting to properly listen to all of her music for this 🙂 x

  7. Nina Simone’s music is amazing! I love I Wish I Could Know How It Feels to Be Free, as it is so touching and so true to Nina’s own life (and the life of many other people of colour and women throughout history/now). Thank you for sharing this playlist, I love Nina but I’ve found a few recommendations from you x

    1. Yes I completely agree! Her music is still so relevant now and it still sounds absolutely incredible. So glad you enjoyed reading! 🙂 x

  8. other than sinnerman (BANGER), i haven’t listened to very much nina simone! i’ve definitely heard some of her stuff on curated playlists, but have never listened to her properly myself. this was such a fantastic reminder to do so!! i love that you’re taking longer to listen to the records; that’s not only gonna make it easier on you, but it’s definitely gonna show in these posts xx

    1. Hahah, agreed – sinnerman is an absolute BANGER! Great to hear that you’re on board with my idea of taking a little bit longer to listen to each artist for this series 🙂 x

  9. This is a great blog post idea since it can help people find new music. I have never heard of Nine Simone before this so I truly appreciate you taking the time to put this together. I will definitely be checking out some of her songs. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Ahh thank you so much! I hope you enjoy learning a bit more about her and her incredible music 🙂 x

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