Friday, January 8, 2010

The High (And Low) Priestess of Soul

Nina Simone never liked to be categorized, so I wont do too much of that, but I will say she is one of the most authentic artists and overall public figures of the 1900's (except for her name, ahem Eunice Kathleen Waymon ahem). The lasting legacy of Nina Simone seems to be intertwined with her volatile attitude both on and off the stage. One of her most adored qualities was her ability to drift from an upbeat, happy number, into a slower, more soulful, melancholy one. Also, as black woman during the Civil Rights period, she was labeled as short tempered, aggressive and difficult to work with, but Good Lord, could she sing.

It was not until after her exile in France (evading a US Tax Charge) and her death in 2003 that it was revealed that she had been in a lifelong struggle with Bipolar Disorder. It is interesting to hear a condition referred to as a Psychological Ailment on one hand, and one of her most attractive performance qualities but in the other. Its almost as if every album is a standoff between Mania and Depression, but then isn't that what art, in it's most basic sense, really is?

While her high energy, lengthy renditions of her classics like, "Sinnerman" and "Mississippi Goddamn" help you bob your head on the subway, her ballads such as "Four Women" and "Ne Me Quitte Pas" contain such a painful longing that keeps you a Nina fan for the rest of your life. What kind of person would I be if I didn't include one example of both. Here she is performing in Berlin in 1967 wearing some sort of Clothes Hamper, and directly below it, a studio version of one of her most sultry songs, off her first RCA album, Nina Simone Sings The Blues.

Stick around for the conclusion of Ladies Week this weekend. May we all have a little sugar in our respective utensils by then.

Song #36: Nina Simone - What You Gonna Do

Bonus Song!: Nina Simone - I Want a Little Sugar In My Bowl

1 comment:

  1. Check out for info on three-phase (scholarship-sculpture-music festival) tribute in Simone's birthplace, Tryon NC. Presently seeking tax-deductible donations to complete over-life-size bronze sculpture of Nina Simone by sculptor Zenos Frudakis, creator of National Air Force Memorial Honor Guard at Arlington.
    Crys Armbrust, Executive Director, Nina Simone Project.