The versatile singer, songwriter, pianist, musical arranger and civil rights activist Nina Simone was one of the most iconic of all jazz performers. Operating in a range of genres, from folk, blues and rhythm ' blues to pop, gospel and classical, Simone issued over 40 albums during a long and successful career, though bipolar disorder dramatically affected her later years. Born Eunice Kathleen Waymon in 1933, she was one of eight children in a poor black family raised in the small southern border town of Tryon, North Carolina, where her father was a reverend and her mother a Methodist minister< young Eunice began playing piano in the local church by the age of four. Her mother's employer paid for her music lessons, leading to her first classical recital, aged 12, and her teacher was so impressed with her skills that a local fund was established to allow her to attend the Allen High School for Girls in Asheville and subsequently enroll at the Juilliard School of Music in New York. Aspiring to be a professional classical pianist, she then tried for a scholarship to study further at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia-her family moving to Philly in anticipation of her success-but was denied admission, which she felt was due to the color of her skin. To fund her private piano lessons and to support her uprooted family, she began performing at a bar in Atlantic City and gained a sizeable following under her alias, chosen in 1954 to disguise herself from family members that would surely disapprove of her non/religious repertoire. Her breakthrough came in 1958 with the release of her debut album Little Girl Blue, issued on upcoming jazz label Bethlehem Records, which contained her outstanding hit rendition of the theme song from Porgy and Bess. Moving to Coolpix Records, the first record label established by Columbia Pictures, allowed Simone greater artistic control. She recorded a range of albums for the company before switching to Philips in 1964< Coolpix's1963 release, Nina's Choice, was titled in reference to the fact that Simone chose the entire contents, drawing from a range of pop, folk, blues and show tunes, all interpreted and delivered in her uniquely expressive style.