This year on Mother's Day, Simone, the daughter of singer Nina Simone, will pay tribute to the woman who raised her with a gift for not only her mother, but her mother's fans as well. Simone -- the late singer's only child, born Lisa Celeste Stroud (pictured as a child with her mother) -- is re-launching NinaSimone.com with a new design and a deep trove of content, including unreleased songs, video performances and "Nina Simone Radio," a 24-7 Internet radio station that will provide hundreds of recordings, interviews and guest commentary.
As the executor of her mother's estate, Simone has owned the rights to NinaSimone.com for over a year, but only began preparations for a re-launch about six months ago. "As her only child, I have a unique vision compared to anyone else walking this earth," Simone says. "So a lot of what we're bringing to the site is from my perspective."
Simone, 48, describes the relationship with her mother as "many things." She says, "I didn't even know who Nina Simone was until I was around 11 or 12 years old, then I was able to make the distinction that she was someone else to the world." Simone went on to work in civil engineering for the United States Air Force, but at 28 decided she wanted to follow in her mother's footsteps. The elder Simone was not sure her daughter was ready. "She said to me, 'They're going to expect you to sing protest songs,'" Simone recalls. "I said, 'Well, then I'll sing your songs.' So she realized I was committed to it."
And Simone is committed to and invested in clearing up whatever mistruths may exist out there about her mother. "As with any great figure there are rumors, there's gossip, there's assumptions, and I can't correct everything," Simone says. "But what I can do is make sure I have somewhere people can go to that they know when they hear something or see something that this is the truth and it's not going to change."
Never quite as popular when she was alive to perform and record it as it has been since her passing in 2003, Nina Simone's music has long been beloved and respected. A pianist first, Nina Simone's voice took the spotlight at many of her early shows where she was told in auditions that if she wanted the gig she would have to both play piano and sing. Her 1959 cover of George Gershwin's 'I Loves You Porgy' was her only Top 40 hit, going as high as number 20 on the 'Billboard' charts, but her cult-like following was garnered largely through her affinity for protest songs during the civil rights era.
Nina Simone's 1969 hit single, 'To Be Young, Gifted, and Black,' the title of which she borrowed from her close friend playwright Lorraine Hansberry, inspired many artists to do their own renditions, including Donny Hathaway and Aretha Franklin. In more recent years, hip-hop artists have created song using samples of her work. 'Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood' was a sample used on both Common's 2007 album 'Finding Forever' ('Misunderstood') and Lil Wayne's 2008 album, 'Tha Carter III' ('Don't Get It').
In addition to the re-launch of NinaSimone.com, daughter Simone is also producing a double album of her mother's music to be released next year, as well as a follow up to her own 'Simone on Simone' released last year. Simone says many of her mother's fans never knew Nina Simone ever had a daughter, a disconnect she seems to have accepted. On a recent trip to Finland, where she was performing alongside singer Bobby McFerrin, Simone recalls McFerrin saying he wasn't aware of who she was. "I said to him, 'I get that all the time.'"