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Simone (Lisa Celeste Stroud)

Singer/actress Simone, who took her mother's last name as her single stage name, was born Lisa Celeste Stroud, the daughter of singer Nina Simone and her manager-husband Andrew Stroud, in Mount Vernon, NY, on September 12, 1962. She grew up at first in Mount Vernon, then in New York City and North Carolina. After her parents' marriage broke up, she lived with her mother in Barbados and Liberia before moving to Switzerland to attend boarding school. Graduating after three years, she returned to the U.S. and enlisted in the Army in 1982. She studied civil engineering and rose to the rank of staff sergeant. While stationed in West Germany, she began singing on-stage under the name Simone, and she eventually left the military and turned to music professionally. She was a backup singer for Latin star Raphael for two years, then moved to Los Angeles and formed a vocal trio called Aura. After a period of "being a waitress, singing at open 'mikes' and doing children's theater," as she put it in her press biography, she was cast in a national touring company of the musical Jesus Christ Superstar in 1995, beginning a career in musical theater. Next came the first national tour of Rent in 1996. That stint lasted 18 months, and after it ended in Chicago in 1998, she remained there and began singing with the acid jazz band Liquid Soul. She first appeared on-stage with her mother in 1999 at the Guinness Blues Festival in Dublin, then opened for her at the Royal Albert Hall in London. In May 1999, she gave birth to a daughter; shortly after, she was called to audition for The Lion King. She had the title role in the first national tour of Aida in 2001, then stepped into the Broadway production in 2002. She was still appearing in the show on April 21, 2003, when Nina Simone died. She concluded her stint in Aida in June 2003. In 2004, she performed a tribute to her mother at the JVC Jazz Festival in New York. That helped lead to three years of touring in Europe with the children of Chaka Khan and Donny Hathaway in a show called Daughters of Soul. After performing another tribute concert to her mother at Town Hall in New York on the third anniversary of Nina Simone's death, Simone finally decided to record a tribute album of songs associated with her. The result was the big-band recording Simone on Simone, self-released on the Simone's World label on February 21, 2008. ~ William Ruhlmann, Rovi
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