Best Nina Simone songs | ‘Women in Music’ series

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

Joining us next in the ‘Women in Music’ series is 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. Interested in learning more about Nina Simone’s career in music? Read on to discover the story behind her music career and listen to some of her very best tracks.

The ‘Women in Music’ series

The ‘Women in Music’ series is an ongoing music-focused series that focuses specifically on sharing the music of iconic women, and female-fronted bands. In each post within the ‘Women in Music’ series, I’ll take you through a woman, or women-led band, from music that I think is iconic in their own right. I’ll share a bit about their background, their journey in the music industry, and also curate a playlist of my favourite tracks of theirs. Classical and jazz icon, Nina Simone, is our icon this time, but if you want to discover more women in music be sure to check out the full series.

I Put A Spell On You (1965) album cover - 40 Best Nina Simone Songs (The Legend Slot) - Female Original
Little Girl Blue (1959) album cover - 40 Best Nina Simone Songs (The Legend Slot) - Female Original

Nina Simone | Women in Music

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.

I Put A Spell On You (1965) album cover - 40 Best Nina Simone Songs (The Legend Slot) - Female Original
Wild Is The Wind (1966) album cover - 40 Best Nina Simone Songs (The Legend Slot) - Female Original

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.

Best Nina Simone songs | Women in Music, the playlist

Nina Simone | old favourites & new discoveries

So…let’s talk favourites. First up I’ve chosen Baltimore from the album Baltimore (1978). Fun fact, it was written by Randy Newman (yep, Toy Story’s Randy Newman). Another favourite, which has also been featured 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. Of course, the likes of ‘My Baby Just Cares For Me’, ‘I Put A Spell On You’, ‘Feeling Good’ and ‘I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free’ are favourites too. But, I mean, surely they’re everyone’s favourites, right?

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

As for new discoveries, I’ll admit there were a lot of them. My knowledge of Nina SImone’s music turned out to be pretty limited going into this, but I quickly became a big fan of hers once I started exploring her back catalogue of music. My first new discoveries came from her first album Little Girl Blue (1959) and they were ‘He Needs Me‘ and ‘I Loves You, Porgy‘. ‘He Needs Me’ was 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.

Some of my other discoveries were ‘You’ve Got To Learn‘ and ‘Lilac Wine‘. 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’.

More women in music

Have you listened to much of Nina Simone’s music before? Which tracks are your favourites of hers? Let me know in the comments. Also, don’t forget to comment below which iconic women in music you want me to feature next in this series.

Whitney Houston

Kylie Minogue

Aretha Franklin

38 thoughts on “Best Nina Simone songs | ‘Women in Music’ series

  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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚ 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

  7. Love that this series has returned and great choice! I absolutely love Nina Simone’s music, forever timeless and forever classic.

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

  8. 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! πŸ™‚ x

  9. 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 πŸ™‚ x

  10. 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 πŸ™‚ x

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