Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “I Put a Spell on You: The Autobiography of Nina Simone” as Want to Read:
I Put a Spell on You: The Autobiography of Nina Simone
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

I Put a Spell on You: The Autobiography of Nina Simone

3.89 of 5 stars 3.89  ·  rating details  ·  628 ratings  ·  65 reviews
A gorgeous, inimitable singer and songwriter, Nina Simone (1933-2003) changed the face of both music and race relations in America. She struck a chord with bluesy jazz ballads like "Put a Little Sugar in My Bowl" and powerful protest songs such as "Mississippi Goddam" and "To Be Young, Gifted, and Black," the anthem of the American Civil Rights movement. Coinciding with th ...more
Paperback, 192 pages
Published September 4th 2003 by Da Capo Press (first published 1991)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about I Put a Spell on You, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about I Put a Spell on You

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,014)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Mar 14, 2013 Rowena rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Nina Simone fans, those interested in the Civil Rights movement
"Unlike most artists I didn't care that much about a career as a popular singer. I was different- I was going to be a classical musician."

I've always been drawn to Nina Simone's soulful voice and her powerful lyrics in such songs as "Young, Gifted and Black" and "Ain't Got No..."I felt a little apprehensive about reading her biography because I guess it's human nature for people to idealize their heroes, and to think of them as flawless human beings.

The story begins with the background of her c

The accidental star, the reluctant creator of something new under the sun of popular music, something no one else did before or since (because not only did no one else think of it, if they'd thought of it they wouldn't have been able to do it, she wasn't jazz, wasn't soul, wasn't cabaret but all of that and everything else), at the age of 60 produced this short account of her strange life in such a way that even the crazy stuff sounds reasonable, and whi
What a disappointment! I am grateful for learning about Nina Simone's childhood in North Carolina, her classical piano training, her desire to become a concert pianist, and the development of her political consciousness. However throughout most of the book, she describes her depression, failed marriages, physical abuse, many lovers, dependence on men, and family conflicts.

What this book lacks are detailed descriptions of her production, concerts, collaborations, covers and songwriting. Nina only
Sep 23, 2008 Fanababy rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Fanababy by: Dad
Living is a gift, but can feel unbearable, loving is inevitable pain, and surviving to tell your story is a blessing. The right book at the right time, my dad snuck it into my suitcase when I left to go back to DC. How did he know that I needed that book in my life? Read it in one sitting.
I have been a fan of Nina Simone's music for the last five years or so. I was looking at pictures of her a few weeks ago and decided that I wanted to learn more about her life. This book was an excellent resource, because the information comes straight from her. Nina Simone led a full and interesting life. Like anyone else, she made her mistakes and experienced highs and lows.

Now, I must admit that there were a few scenes where I rolled my eyes, particularly when she speaks of not knowing anyth
Nina Nina Nina. This was a really good book. I appreciate how candid she is in telling the story of her rise to international fame from her small town USA beginnings. Nina takes us from her childhood in the Depression era through her classical piano training, first appearances on the night club circuit, her period as a political activist and protest singer for the Civil Rights Movement of the 60's/70's and on to her disillusionment with the USA and self-imposed exile to Africa, Barbados and Swit ...more
I wanted so much for Nina Simone to live up to the strong woman I had in mind. I had this spectrum in my head, with weak and susceptible songbird Billie Holiday on one end and strong, iconic Nina Simone on the other. Nina Simone who gave voice to a movement, who gave new life to African-American history through her music. Sadly, Nina seems much more a victim of circumstance than her songs let on.

The entire book shows her reacting to one situation after the other, even when she is held up as a ke
Who knew Nina Simone led such a crazy life?! The best anecdote in this book is this time that Nina invited Louis Farrakhan over to talk politics, but the more gin she drank, the more she got distracted by his apparently tiny feet. "Minister Farrakhan talked on into the small hours and I sat staring at his shoes, sipping my gin and wondering what he'd say if I invited him upstairs." So she does, and he turns her down and keeps talking politics. But after that night, he would send messages saying ...more
Caroline Alicia
Nina Simone struck me as incredibly vain, arrogant, and prideful after reading this book. She discusses her many conquests, dancing naked, constantly saying how "cute" she looks, and being a mistress, rather shamelessly. She doesn't even seem like a responsible mother- there is one point she is off living the fabulous life in Africa (or was it some tropical island?) for a stretch of time, leaving her daughter with family. I don't expect everyone in the limelight to be the perfect role model, but ...more
Ms. Simone shares her memoir with the reader in a candid manner. She is open and honest with her rise and fall in both her professional and personal life.

Nina takes us from her childhood growing up during the Depression in North Carolina where she trained as a classical pianist with lessons funded by her community. After attending Juilliard on scholarship having been rejected by the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, she's employed as a nightclub entertainer, singing and accompanying herself whi
If your looking for a book on the music of Nina Simone then this is not the one to choose. This is all about her personal life from her upbringing in the Depression in North Carolina, the rise and fall of her career and her politics. It is an extraordinary story, with elements that I found surprising. Nina was, understandably, an angry woman and before I read this I perceived her to be fiercely independent. She actually seemed to have a reliance on men and her relationships with them are intrigu ...more
I am a big fan of biographies. Especially autobiographies. It gives such insight to a person that you might know otherwise. I love Nina Simone's music and have always been intrigued by what little I knew about her. I downloaded the book to my kindle and was immediately sucked into her life. She is very straight-dorward and honest about how she saw her life. I recommend it to lovers of musicians and the crazy lives they lead.
Dawn Lennon
So many iconic musicians struggle with achieving recognition first and then the pressures of fame. Nina Simone's story has that too, but it also included the Civil Rights Movement and her role as a protest singer and leader through her music and fame. It's a life that was borne from a legacy of slavery followed the prejudice of her own time that was part of her life but not the centerpiece of it growing up. But her struggles were uniquely hers, often shocking, inspiring, heartbreaking, and eleva ...more
i read this awhile ago, but just remembered having read it. i don't recall if the writing was great, but i remember loving the autobiography...mostly 'cause i love all things nina. an amazing musician, woman, and life.
Incredibly complex and interesting woman who was full of contradictions. Her early years she seems so self assured, not allowing any discrimination to define her or get in her way. As she matures, she seems to make poor decisions, especially in her business life, and when these poor choices result in poor outcomes, she blames everything and everyone but herself.

She becomes entitled and indignant if people didn't treat her as a diva, even though she states she didn't want any recognition. '...the
The thing about reading autobiographies of your musical heroes is that you've put them on a pedestal, so you're unprepared for reality. For the unsavory bits. That they're human. They screw up. They can be bitter, and self-absorbed. They fall out with members of their family. They have dodgy relationships with 70 year-old Liberian men. Etc.

Maybe this is a lesson in itself. Because Nina Simone sounds like an angel (albeit a feisty one) doesn't mean that she was one. If her autobiography doesn't m
It's insightful into Nina's own state of mind about who she was a musician, a black woman in the 60s, and a "liberated" woman at that. With autobiography, it's always important to understand that these are the pictures painted in the mind of the subject after the fact. We all attempt to contextualize our actions inside of some running narrative. Despite the probable "inaccuracy" of many events, it helps us to understand the subject better. Nina conveniently glosses over some places where she's u ...more
Nov 14, 2008 Tricia rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2008
This is a fascinating autobiography of Nina Simone's life. Her story begins so differently than where she ends up, and she unapologetically lays it all out before us. I am amazed and awed in her honesty and true insight into her own life. She writes as if also interpreting it together with the reader, and does not pull punches or skitter around her philosophies. She has truly lived an extraordinary life - perhaps not the life she ever envisioned for herself, but one that she has no choice but to ...more
I'm probably never going to finish this book, which is a shame because it's interesting-ish. A lot of the anecdotes are fascinating, or involve topics I'm curious about, namely Nina Simone's life and career, but for some reason, every time something comes up that sparks my curiosity, I think, "Now this is interesting! So why am I still bored?" To be fair, I don't read much autobiography, so it may be that I'm not familiar with the style, and that's why I'm not finding this engaging. Still, I was ...more
Just finished, and to console myself I'm listening to the "Single Woman" album. This book has filled me with sadness. Nina Simone's story is one of struggle and personal suffering to be sure, but I was unprepared for an autobiography so devoid of honest introspection and self appraisal. The relentless scapegoating begins about half way through. The the recriminations are the book's constant - sordid and sad.

I read this hoping it would illuminate and enhance her astonishing, perfect songs. If yo
Jun 26, 2008 Stephen rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: music lovers/ civil rights interest
Quite possibly the most passionate autobiography I have read. Even more amazing is all that occurs in less than 200 pages. A very dense read, for it's intensity. I'm no reading slouch, but this book took me weeks to finish. I wanted to absorb it all, and I also didn't want it to end. Nina's writing is as passionate and real and vulnerable as her singing and her piano playing. If you have an interest in civil rights you may want to read this, she was most definitely a woman on the front line. Sim ...more
The autobiography for one of the greatest jazz singers of all time, Nina Simone.

She details her upbringing and the poverty that went with it. Simone also told how she became a singer and then eventually a jazz singer as well. Throughout the book, we also get Simone's candid stories of her failed marriages, depression, and other problems. It was also interesting to learn Simone's views and part in the Civil Rights Movement. My only problem with the book is the lack of real attention given to her
I loved Nina's raw Honesty here.This bio Not only Gave me a Clearer view on her artistry But it Really revealed Who Nina The mother & woman off stage was....The Voice of The movement !!!
Jim Agustin
Like most things, I discovered Nina Simone's music obliquely when she was mentioned by Peter Gabriel as one of his influences. Through the years I gathered her music and then found this book. This is a very engaging autobiography which could have been more edgy and daring. But it is good to hear her story this way, not at all distant from the fiery songs she has performed. Reading this is like sharing a smoky bar with her, shadow and light chasing each other on the walls as her voice makes you s ...more
Winter Rose
A Strong & Proud Queen!
the finest female vocalist & pianist ever. her story, while not terribly well-written, is a remarkable one, and obviously a must-read for any fan. from north carolina to the city of brothery love to her final years in europe, nina's trials and tribulations (as if you couldn't already tell it from her inimitable singing style) were many, and never far from the forefront of her success. if you don't like nina simone, you don't like freedom.
I found the beginning of this book very moving, and Nina's early life very interesting. I started to mistrust her narration of her own life toward the end, as she gets richer and crazier.

Her prose starts to feel flat after a while, unfortunately, and she becomes a bit repetitive as she harps on her hatred of the music business and America in general. Sort of throws a wet blanket on an otherwise interesting story.
I got this book as a gift when it first came out bc I love love love Nina Simone. This book is in her own words and its all over the place - a whirlwind - like her life. Her story is just awesome and so is her music. Even if you don't particularly like Nina's music, this is a powerful book about a spellbinding woman who knows what she wants and stops at nothing to get it.
You ever read something, and the author is telling you these stories that make you wonder just what the hell the other people were thinking? We're all bit players in others' lives and stars in our own; it just seems that some people prefer to be stars in others' productions, also.

Well-written book. Explains a bit, and opens the door to yet more questions later.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 67 68 next »
  • Princess Noire: The Tumultuous Reign of Nina Simone
  • Blues Legacies and Black Feminism: Gertrude "Ma" Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday
  • Music is My Mistress
  • Lady Sings the Blues
  • Dream Boogie: The Triumph of Sam Cooke
  • Unbought And Unbossed
  • Blues People: Negro Music in White America
  • Space is the Place: The Lives and Times of Sun Ra
  • Beneath the Underdog
  • Escaping the Delta: Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues
  • Rage To Survive: The Etta James Story
  • Ascension: John Coltrane And His Quest
  • Satchmo: My Life in New Orleans
  • Blues All Around Me: The Autobiography of B.B. King
  • Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original
  • Dorothy Dandridge
  • Those Bones Are Not My Child
  • If You Can't Be Free, Be a Mystery: In Search of Billie Holiday
Eunice Kathleen Waymon, better known by her stage name Nina Simone, was a fifteen-time Grammy Award-nominated American singer, songwriter, pianist, arranger and civil rights activist.

Although she disliked being categorized, Simone is generally classified as a jazz musician. Simone originally aspired to become a classical pianist, but her work covers an eclectic variety of musical styles besides he
More about Nina Simone...
Very Best Of Nina Simone (Piano/Vocal/Guitar Songbook) You're The Voice: Nina Simone (Pvg Songbook/Cd) The Nina Simone Piano Songbook: V. 2 (Pvg) Little Girl Blue Feeling Good: The Best of Nina Simone: (Piano/vocal/guitar)

Share This Book

“What kept me sane was knowing that things would change, and it was a question of keeping myself together until they did.” 41 likes
“This is the world you have made yourself, now you have to live in it.” 15 likes
More quotes…