What Happened, Miss Simone?

A Radical Media Production in association with Moxie Firecracker for Netflix

What Happened, Miss Simone? will put a spell on you. Opening with a tensely dramatic video clip from a 1976 concert at which Nina Simone seems to be on the verge of an onstage breakdown, the documentary is a mesmerizing examination of the brilliant, troubled life and career of a classically trained pianist who became a revered, influential jazz-pop chanteuse and a black power icon. Director Liz Garbus adroitly convokes the story of Simone – born Eunice Waymon to a South Carolina minister and her handyman husband – using vintage photographs, archival on-camera interviews and rare concert footage. The narration, though it features insightful remembrances by her daughter, Lisa Simone Kelly, comes largely from the artist-activist herself, the spoken words drawn from previously unheard audiotapes of interviews she granted over the years. The portrait that emerges, touching on her unique synthesis of musical influences, her dedication to the civil rights movement and her struggle with bipolar disorder, is as bluntly honest as Simone famously was in life. The title comes from a question once asked by her contemporary, poet Maya Angelou, who was sadly curious about the flame-out of an artist and friend so enormously gifted. For a haunting, bitter-sweet biography that will enrich long-time admirers’ appreciation and entice new fans, a Peabody Award goes to What Happened, Miss Simone?


Executive Producers: Sidney Beaumont, Jon Kamen, Lisa Nishimura, Adam Del Deo, Lisa Simone Kelly. Producers: Amy Hobby, Liz Garbus, Justin Wilkes, Jayson Jackson. Director: Liz Garbus. Videographers: Igor Martinovic, Rachel Morrison. Performer: Nina Simone.