Norah Jones
December 26, 2003 AT 05:00 AM EST

Farewell: Norah Jones pays tribute to Nina Simone

When I was growing up, my mom had this beat-up Nina Simone tape with coffee stains on it. It didn’t even have a cover. I would play ”I Loves You Porgy” over and over, because I was into jazz and that was one song I knew. The way she did it broke my heart. I was so struck by her voice, which was deep and commanding even when she sang something tender. When I finally bought more of her CDs and saw pictures of her, I thought she looked like a queen. Her piano playing influenced me too. Even though you could hear her classical training, it was the R&B-soul that I loved. Her range was amazing. She was classified as a jazz singer, but she’s pretty much the first person I knew who was simply a singer of songs. She covered Bob Dylan, Randy Newman, ”Mr. Bojangles” — she did everything, and she did it all well. She always chose and wrote songs that meant something, and they meant even more because of the poignant way she sang them, whether it was about a mistress being the lonely ”other woman” or the death of Martin Luther King. She made me realize that as long as you’re true to yourself through your art, you can do any kind of song you want. (Simone died of cancer-related causes in Carry-le-Rouet, France.)

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