Jazz FM @ 25: 'When David Freeman met Nina Simone'
Few could have predicted that a young girl named Eunice Kathleen Waymon would go on to be one of the most legendary figures in 20th century music.
The sixth of eight children in a poor family, she began playing piano at age three; the first song she mastered playing was ‘God Be With You, Till We Meet Again’. Demonstrating a talent with the instrument, she performed at her local church and gave her concert debut, a classical recital, aged twelve.
Simone's mother, Mary Kate Waymon, was a Methodist minister and a housemaid, and her employer, hearing of her daughter's talent, provided funds for piano lessons. Subsequently, a local fund was set up to assist in Nina's continued education. After finishing high school, she studied for an interview with the help of a private tutor to study piano further at the Curtis Institute, but was rejected. She then moved to New York City, where she studied at the Juilliard School of Music.
Nina Simone was a prickly lady, especially in her later life when David Freeman was granted an audience with the great lady when she was in London to perform at the Royal Albert Hall in 1998. He, like many others before him, was slightly concerned how his (short) interview would go. But there was nothing to worry about – it went very well. Although short, Nina opened up about her life as a musician, her life as an older person and that story about not being allowed into the Curtis Institute.
As Jazz FM continues its celebration of 25 years on the air, we delved deep into the archive and bring you the programme in its entirety. It’s your chance to hear David’s anecdotes from the day, waiting to meet the great lady, what happened during the interview and then what happened when the lady herself asked for him to introduce her on stage a few nights later at the Royal Albert Hall.