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Today In Music History

Feb. 21 in Music History: Remembering Nina Simone on her birthday

American singer, songwriter, pianist, arranger, and activist Nina Simone (1933 - 2003), photographed in the U.K., Sept. 14, 1979.
American singer, songwriter, pianist, arranger, and activist Nina Simone (1933 - 2003), photographed in the U.K., Sept. 14, 1979.Mike Lawn/Getty Images

February 21, 2024

History Highlight:

Eunice Kathleen Waymon (also known as Nina Simone) was born on this day in 1933. Simone was a singer, songwriter, pianist, arranger and civil rights activist who worked in a broad range of musical styles. Simone's music fused gospel and pop with classical music — in particular Johann Sebastian Bach — and accompanied expressive, jazz-like singing in her contralto voice. Throughout her career, Simone assembled a collection of songs that would later become standards in her repertoire. Some were songs that she wrote herself, while others were new arrangements of other standards, and others had been written especially for her. Simone's first hit came in 1958, with her rendition of George Gershwin's "I Loves You, Porgy," from the musical Porgy & Bess. In all, Simone would record more than 40 albums between 1958 and 1993. Simone spent her final decade in France, her adopted home. She passed away in April of 2003 from breast cancer.

Also, Today In:

1961 - The Beatles played three gigs in one day. The first was a lunchtime show at The Cavern Club, then at night they appeared at the Casanova Club in Liverpool and at Litherland Town Hall.

1964 - The Rolling Stones' third single, "Not Fade Away," a remake of the old Buddy Holly tune, was released in the U.K. on Decca Records. It struck pay dirt, becoming the group's first British Top 10 single.

1970 - Simon and Garfunkel went to No. 1 on the U.K. chart with Bridge Over Troubled Water. The album went on to stay on the chart for over 300 weeks, returning to the top of the charts on eight separate occasions and spending a total of 41 weeks at No. 1.

1972 - Led Zeppelin released "Rock And Roll / Four Sticks" as a 7 inch single in the U.S., peaking at No. 47 on the chart. The song was written as a spontaneous jam session while the band was trying to finish "Four Sticks".

1975 - David Bowie released "Young Americans" as a single, which became a breakthrough hit for Bowie in the United States. The backing vocal arrangement came at the suggestion of soul singer Luther Vandross.

1976 - The Four Seasons were at No. 1 on the U.K. singles chart with "December '63 (Oh What A Night)", the group's only U.K. No. 1.

1976 - Florence Ballard of The Supremes died of cardiac arrest at age 32.

1981 - REO Speedwagon's ninth album, Hi Infidelity, goes to #1 in America, displacing John Lennon's Double Fantasy.

1981 - Dolly Parton started a two-week run at No. 1 on the U.S. charts with "9 to 5", the singer's first No. 1, a No. 47 hit in the U.K.

1982 - American DJ Murray The K died. Murray is thought to be the first person to play a Beatles record on radio in America.

1987 - Twenty-six years after becoming a hit in America, Ben E. King's "Stand By Me" goes to #1 in the UK following its release in the movie of the same name.

1987 - Ben E. King was at No. 1 on the U.K. singles chart with "Stand By Me". The track was first released in 1961 and became a hit in 1987 after being featured in the film "Stand By Me".

1998 - Celine Dion went to No. 1 on the U.K. singles chart with "My Heart Will Go On". The song was the theme from the movie Titanic and was the world's best selling single of 1998.

2002 - Elton John accused the music industry of exploiting young singers and dumping talented artists for manufactured groups. He said "There are too many average and mediocre acts; it damages real talent getting airplay. It's just fodder."

2008 - A computer expert was jailed for two years for electronically stalking Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington. She worked at a U.S. national security laboratory in New Mexico, where she used a computer to track Bennington. She admitted to obtaining family photos, accessing email and voicemail and threatening his wife Talinda.

2009 - Rihanna issued a statement thanking fans for their support after an alleged assault by her R&B singer boyfriend Chris Brown

2012 - Five members of the Pussy Riot staged a performance at Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Savior where their actions were stopped by church security officials. By that evening, they had turned the performance into a music video entitled "Punk Prayer - Mother of God, Chase Putin Away!" The women said their protest was directed at the Orthodox Church leader's support for Putin during his election campaign. The following month, three of the group members were arrested and charged with "hooliganism" and were were held in custody until their trial began in late July when the three members were convicted of "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred", and each was sentenced to two years in prison.

2013 - Cleotha Staples of The Staple Singers dies at age 78.

2014 - A statue of a weeping Kurt Cobain was unveiled in Aberdeen, Washington - the hometown of the Nirvana frontman.

2014 - Beck released his 12th album, Morning Phase, which won three Grammy Awards.

2019 - Peter Tork, keyboardist and bass guitarist from The Monkees, died at age 77.


Bobby Charles, who wrote “See You Later, Alligator,” was born today in 1938.

David Geffen is 81.

Johnny Echols, cofounder and guitarist for Love, is 77.

Jerry Harrison, of Talking Heads, is 75.

Vince Welnick, keyboardist for the Tubes and the Grateful Dead, was born today in 1951.

Jake Burns, frontman of Stiff Little Fingers, is 66.

Mary Chapin Carpenter is 66.

Ranking Roger of The Beat was born today in 1963.

James Dean Bradfield, frontman for Manic Street Preachers, is 65.

Mark Arm of Mudhoney is 62.

Michael Ward, guitarist with The Wallflowers, is 57.

Rhiannon Giddens is 47.

Charlotte Church is 38.

Highlights for Today in Music History are gathered from This Day in Music, Paul Shaffer's Day in Rock, Song Facts and Wikipedia.