What Happened, Miss Simone?

  • Liz Garbus
  • United States
  • 2014
  • 102 min
  • Music Documentary, Masters
Nina Simone (1933-2003) really wanted to be the first black female classical pianist, but it didn’t turn out that way. She did take piano lessons from an early age, but she needed to earn money – so performing in nightclubs as a jazz, blues and folk singer was a more sensible option. She changed her name from Eunice Waymon to Nina Simone, and by the late 1950s she was getting noticed. She had her first hit in 1958 with Gershwin’s “I Loves You Porgy,” and in 1963 she performed at the world-famous Carnegie Hall. Two years later, she embraced the civil rights movement, garnering renown for angry protest songs such as “Mississippi Goddam,” “Strange Fruit” and “To Be Young, Gifted And Black.” After a few years living in Liberia she moved to Europe, where she lived and performed until her death in 2003. What Happened, Miss Simone? tells her turbulent life story in archive footage and candid diary excerpts. Her daughter Lisa Simone Kelly and regular guitarist Al Schackman also contribute. Beaten by her husband and manager, the artist was a troubled woman who became increasingly angry and more militant in the late 1960s. She wasn’t diagnosed as suffering from bipolar disorder until some 20 years later.


  • 102 min
  • color / black and white
  • DCP
  • Spoken languages: English
  • Subtitles in: English
Liz Garbus
Justin Wilkes for RadicalMedia, Liz Garbus for Moxie Firecracker, Amy Hobby for Tangerine Entertainment, Jayson Jackson
Executive producer
Lisa Simone Kelly, Sidney Beaumont for RadicalMedia, Jon Kamen for RadicalMedia
Igor Martinovic, Rachel Morrison
Joshua L. Pearson

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