In 1964, Nina Simone embarked on new stage of her career. Her rejection by the Philadelphia-based Curtis Institute Of Music; time spent as a pianist in an Atlantic City nightclub; her jazz, gospel, pop and classical influences – all these had fused to make her one of the most complex, fascinating and talented artists of the decade. Simone released her debut album in 1958, but when she signed to Philips, in 1964, her creative output was about to dovetail with the Civil Rights movement – notably coinciding with the Civil Rights Act Of 1964, which outlawed discrimination based on race, color, gender, religious affiliation or nationality.
Simone's fifth album for Philips has the distinction of containing one of President Obama's favorite songs: Simone's 10-minute version of "Sinnerman." The song is also one of two from Pastel Blues to have been sampled by Kanye West (the other being Simone's haunting rendition of the Billie Holiday classic, "Strange Fruit"). Elsewhere, opener "By My Husband" had a different kind of afterlife once Jeff Buckley recorded it for consideration for his 1993 EP Live At Sin-é (his version finally surfaced on the expanded 2003 edition of the release). Pastel Blue was one of Simone's best-performing records, entering the Top 10 on Billboard's R&B charts.