Lisa Simone on loving and fearing her mother Nina: ‘On my 16th, she cursed the day I was born’

As the only child of the legendary musician and civil rights activist, Lisa Simone experienced her mother’s brilliance – and her rage. She talks about the joy, the pain and how they finally made peace

Lisa Simone doesn’t sugarcoat her relationship with her mother, the legendary singer-songwriter and pianist Nina Simone. “On my 16th birthday, she sent me a card and it said: ‘I curse the day you were born.’ I was with my aunt at the time. I didn’t react. It was my aunt that got angry. I was like: ‘Why are you angry? This is normal.’” Lisa, also a singer-songwriter and a Broadway star, has spent a lifetime making sense of her mother.

Sometimes she despised the woman who bullied, rubbished, physically abused and neglected her. At other times she adored the woman who could be fun, loving and nurturing. And she was always in awe of the inspirational artist and activist who represented the revolutionary spirit of the 1960s like nobody else. Now, 90 years after Nina was born and 20 years since she died, Lisa regards herself as keeper of the flame. Next week, she is in London to play a tribute concert, singing songs made famous by her mother.

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