What Happened, Miss Simone? Retraces An Illustrious Singer's Life of Complexity

recommended image width: 1088px

What Happened, Miss Simone?

Passionate, mercurial, prodigiously talented. They’re adjectives that could personify any number of entertainers, but maybe none more than the utterly compelling, endlessly perplexing Nina Simone. In January at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, director Liz Garbus—an Oscar-nominated and first-class artist in her own right—premiered her sweeping portrait of the complicated singer and pianist whose classically trained skills were paired with an undeniable fervor for activism. Simone was raised in the era of Jim Crow laws in the South, which inculcated a fierce dedication to the civil rights movement that was palpable in her onstage presence. With candid accounts from Nina Simone’s late husband, her daughter Lisa, and countless others, Garbus weaves a sincere portrait of the forceful artist and the complicated woman in What Happened, Miss Simone?

The documentary came to Netflix last Friday and is currently screening at select theaters in New York and Los Angeles. Last January at the Sundance Film Festival’s annual ‘A Celebration of Music and Film’ concert, Common, Erykah Badu, Aloe Blacc, Kate Davis, Andra Day, Leon Bridges, and Al Shackman convened for a poignant tribute to the late jazz icon. To celebrate the film’s release, we take a look at some shots from that remarkable evening, which featured tribute performances that were undeniably evocative of Simone’s own presence. 


Singer/songwriter Erykah Badu. © Sundance Institute | Ryan Kobane

Andra Day performs at 'A Celebration of Music and Film.'
© Sundance Institute | Ryan Kobane

Rapper Common performs in front of an archival image of Nina Simone.
© Sundance Institute | Ryan Kobane

Singer/songwriter Aloe Blacc. © Sundance Institute | Ryan Kobane

Soul singer Leon Bridges. © Sundance Institute | Ryan Kobane

Common and Erykah Badu at 'A Celebration of Music and Film.'
© Sundance Institute | Ryan Kobane

 


Lead photo:

What Happened, Miss Simone?