Late Night FDL: My Sweet Lord + Today Is A Killer

Nina Simone – My Sweet Lord + Today Is A Killer

The Guardian had an interesting article today on Nina Simone…

Nina Simone: ‘Are you ready to burn buildings?’

Nina Simone’s album Black Gold, recorded at New York’s Philharmonic Hall on 26 October 1969, concludes with a deeply moving performance of To Be Young, Gifted and Black. The song took its name from a hit play about Lorraine Hansberry, the celebrated playwright who had converted Simone to political activism before dying young in 1965. As she spoke about Hansberry, Simone’s voice creaked with emotion. “I think that very soon now, maybe four or five weeks, I won’t be able to sing it anymore because each time I do it she comes a little bit closer and I miss her a little bit more.”

In Liz Garbus’s new Netflix documentary What Happened, Miss Simone? we see rows of black students enraptured by the song she called “the Black national anthem”, her biggest hit since I Loves You, Porgy a decade earlier. It had the pride and optimism of the cover versions she had alchemised into civil rights anthems: Feeling Good, I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free, Ain’t Got No/I Got Life. But her Philharmonic performance revealed the undercurrents of pain and loss that were slowly dragging her under.

The tremendous power of Simone’s music has entranced the likes of Kanye West, Antony, Laura Mvula and Lauryn Hill. In 2008, President Obama named her version of Sinnerman as one of his 10 favourite songs. She sang in an almost androgynous baritone that she said ranged from “gravel” to “coffee and cream”, played piano like a virtuoso and interpreted material with power and imagination. When she covered a song it stayed covered, although it’s ironic that her career was revived in 1987 thanks to a perfume commercial that featured 1958’s My Baby Just Cares for Me because that perky jazz standard (which she once called “a piece of shit”) told listeners nothing about who she really was.

There was always something regal about the “High Priestess of Soul” who, at one point, claimed to be a reincarnated Egyptian queen: Nadine Cohodas’s excellent biography is called Princess Noire. “She is loved or feared, adored or disliked, but few who have met her music or glimpsed her soul react with moderation,” Maya Angelou wrote in the 1970 magazine article that gives Garbus’s film its name. “She is an extremist, extremely realised.” {more}

What’s on your mind tonite…?