Nina Simone performs on stage at Newport Jazz Festival on July 4th 1968 in Newport, Rhode Island. Image is part of David Redfern Premium Collection. (Photo by David Redfern/Redferns)

Nina Simone's Childhood Home is Up For Restoration

Celebrities including John Legend, Issa Rae, and more have banded together to crowdfund the project.

by Emma Specter
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Jul 12 2019, 5:45pm

 Nina Simone performs on stage at Newport Jazz Festival on July 4th 1968 in Newport, Rhode Island. Image is part of David Redfern Premium Collection. (Photo by David Redfern/Redferns)

It's hard to believe that preserving the legacy of a musical icon like Nina Simone is a task that's now best suited to online crowdfunding, but that's 2019, baby! Simone's childhood home in Tryon, North Carolina sat empty until 2017, when four New York-based artists bought it for $95,000. Now, ArtNews reports, a crowdfunding effort to restore the home has garnered star-studded support from celebrities including John Legend, Cat Stevens, Issa Rae, and Mahershala Ali.

“Spaces devoted to the history and legacy of people of color, especially women of color, are far too few in America today. Preserving places like the Nina Simone childhood home will help keep her powerful story alive," said Legend in a press release. As of 1:30pm EST on Friday, the campaign had raised just over $17,000, about $8,000 shy of its full goal; luckily, there are still 50 days left to donate.

Though Simone is often closely associated with her later life in France, her North Carolinan upbringing was always threaded through her work; she first learned to play piano in the house that is now up for restoration, which the National Trust for Historic Preservation awarded with a "National Treasure" designation in 2018. A 2014 New Yorker profile of Simone described her creatively inclined upbringing in that house as the sixth of eight children: "Even during the Depression, the Waymons made a good home. Simone’s earliest memories were of her mother singing hymns, and both the house and the church were so filled with music that no one noticed little Eunice climbing up to the organ bench until, at the age of two and a half, she played “God Be with You Till We Meet Again,” straight through."

Until Simone's childhood home is restored, we'll just have to content ourselves with watching live video of her singing "MIssissippi Goddamn" on repeat:

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