North Carolina native Nina Simone has been voted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She’s in the 2018 class alongside Bon Jovi, Moody Blues, Dire Straits, The Cars and Sister Rosetta Tharpe. They’ll all be inducted April 14 at the hall in Cleveland.
Born in Tryon in 1933, Simone was a wide-ranging singer known as “The High Priestess of Soul” – fluent in jazz and classical as well as R&B. In 1963, she wrote “Mississippi Goddam” in response to civil-rights worker Medgar Evers’ murder and the Birmingham, Ala., church bombing that killed four young girls. The song made Simone an icon of the civil-rights era, even if she believed it ultimately harmed her career.
“In the early parts of her career, she performed for largely white audiences in supper clubs,” said Duke University African American studies professor and scholar Mark Anthony Neal. “They kind of gave her a pass even though she was on the front lines of civil rights, until that song. ‘Mississippi Goddam’ changed everything.”
Since her death in 2003, Simone has been the subject of numerous projects, including multiple box-set reissues and a move to potentially turn her birth home in Tryon into a museum. Last year, the 2015 documentary “What Happened, Miss Simone?” was nominated for an Academy Award.
This fall, Polish-born crochet artist Olek assembled a huge pink and orange Simone mural on an exterior wall of the Raleigh Convention Center. Olek selected Simone as a mural subject in part to help the singer’s Hall of Fame chances.
In October, the hall announced 19 nominees for the 2018 class, and Simone was on the ballot for the first time. The hall’s main voting body consists of 900-plus musicians, historians and music-industry members, with additional input from an online fan vote.
All of the top four vote getters in the fan vote made it in, topped by Bon Jovi at 1.1 million votes (more than 100,000 ahead of the Moody Blues in second place).
Simone finished 10th in the fan vote, and Tharpe even lower. But both were influential enough to be voted in by the hall’s main voting body.
But it wasn’t enough.