Nina Simone: The Biography

Jenny Diski writes:

The life of Nina Simone, who died at the age of 70 in 2003, doesn’t make for a happy tale, but then if it did, who would have written it? Given the melodrama and the perfect fit with the troubled-intolerable-her-own-worst-enemy diva cliché, it’s quite strange that there has been no substantial account of her life until now, apart from a highly unreliable ghosted memoir of her own and a reminiscence by the founder of her British fan club, David Nathan, and its secretary, Sylvia Hampton. Potential biographers might have been put off by the resistance of Simone’s daughter, who doesn’t want to talk about her mother, and many former friends and colleagues who refused to be interviewed or give on-the-record information. But David Brun-Lambert, seeing a perfect subject with a classically imperfect life, didn’t let a lack of new primary sources stop him. He had a story ‘of inconsolable solitude, of an artist wracked and torn by destructive forces. Under life’s blows and her depression, she became her own worst enemy, a woman singing of lost love and revolution who would find neither the man of her dreams nor peace.’

(LRB 25 June 2009)