Between 1958 and 1993 the singer – who died in 2003 at 70 – released more than 60 live and studio albums – mainly containing cover versions of other people’s songs.
Yet the arrangements Simone created – informed by her classical training and the phrasing of her vocals – drawn from jazz – rewrote the compositions in her own image.
Some recordings – like her cover of Leonard Cohen’s Suzanne – differ so radically from the original she deserved a co-writing credit.
Some of the pieces Simone composed herself became classics – including her blunt response to the violence of the civil rights era south in Mississippi Goddam and the pride anthem To Be Young, Gifted and Black.
Over the years Simone’s politics became increasingly radical.
By the late 60s she had no trouble asking black audiences if they were ‘ready to kill’ for the cause – a quote captured in Garbus’s movie.
Small wonder Simone later became a kind of godmother to gangsta rap’s hardest artists.
Her work took just as unblinking a view of gender.
With her deep pitch she blurred expectations for male and female singers – providing a role model for later androgynous vocalists from Jeff Buckley to Anohni.
Likewise Simone’s recordings ignored divisions between jazz – pop – rock – classical music and soul.