I discovered Nina Simone’s music when I was walking down the hall in my dorm at Webster College in St. Louis. I heard Nina’s voice coming from my friend’s room – it was “Four Women.” I stood in the hall transfixed and then went out and bought all of Nina’s albums. She was so raw and seemingly unafraid — but something in me sensed great vulnerability beneath her boldness.
Years later I finally met her. My dear friend Attallah Shabazz brought her to see me in “The Diva is Dismissed,” the one-woman show I was performing at The Hudson Theatre in Los Angeles. I knew she was in the audience and gave her my best performance! Afterwards, she came up and extended her hand and said, “I am Nina Simone.” But instead of shaking her hand, I hugged her tight and whispered in her ear, “I’ve studied every note you’ve ever sung — and my name is Peaches too!” She cracked up — I was so happy that I made Nina Simone laugh.
But more than anything I admired her audacity to be black during a time when being black was controversial. For me there was Mahalia Jackson, Ethel Merman, Aretha Franklin and Nina Simone – they sang out LOUD and I heard them loud and clear. Hail Queen Simone.
(photo by Camrin William)