The Irony of Nina Simone Joining the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

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Nina Simone has made it to Cleveland. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame released the names of its 2018 inductees on Monday, including performers Bon Jovi, the Cars, Dire Straits, The Moody Blues, and Miss Simone herself. The singer, pianist, and activist, who rose to fame for her version of George Gershwin’s “I Loves You, Porgy,” may not necessarily have loved the designation. She once said she rejected her music being labeled as jazz, saying, “Jazz is a white term to define black people. My music is black classical music.”

There have been many attempts to capture the essence of Simone, who died at the age of 70 in 2003, on screen since her death. A documentary about her life, What Happened, Miss Simone?, was released on Netflix in 2015 with the support of her daughter, Lisa Simone Kelly, behind the project. The film received an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary Feature.

A year later, in 2016, Nina, starring Zoe Saldana as Simone, was given a limited release in theaters. Simone’s estate refused to endorse the film, and Kelly expressed her disapproval of Saldana’s casting saying, “My mother was raised at a time when she was told her nose was too wide, her skin was too dark. Appearance-wise, this is not the best choice.”

The 33rd annual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony will take place on Saturday, April 14, 2018 in Cleveland.

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