23 December, 2005

A Little Sweetness Down In My Soul

Slogging thorough my iTunes lately, I’ve had the luxury of comparing versions of songs as interpreted by various artists. One interpretress stands out.

Sometimes, when guests are chez moi, I play certain songs. I’m thinking now of those songs that arouse the reaction “is that a man?” When Nina sings, it is not a question of gender. Nina sings to all of us.*

She may have been consumed by visions of racism in every nook and cranny she could see, but Nina Simone is indisputably an icon, both of interpretation and composition. Her vision of “racist” US culture as a stultifying damper on her abundant, unbridled, unclassifiable creativity led her to sojourn in Europe, eventually settling in France**, though her only “hit” was due to a Chanel ad campaign.

If you get a chance, compare and contrast the songs recorded by better known artists with those in Simone’s catalogue. If you know me, and have the misfortune of being sequestered with me, you may not have the choice.

Apocryphally, she called her music “black classical music.” It is easy to see why. Dylan, Carmichael, Gershwin, The Bee Gees (The Bee Friggin’ Gees), Aretha Franklin, Jazz, Blues, Spiritual, Classical; no matter - Nina mastered them all. Often, she’d combine them all. A cd/dvd I recently purchased displayed her infusing a Bach fugue into a “pop” song on the Ed Sullivan Show.

Find it, play it, love it.

Everybody knows about Mississippi, Goddamn.

Goddamn, indeed.

*Oh, how cheesy - yet true - is this? Help me, dear reader, to word this better.
** Evidently ignoring the “benevolent” racism prevalent in that country, which accords a kind of quasi god-like status to anyone of artistic merit, while retaining sayings and customs that would make the classic pabulum spewing PC liberal explode in rage.

Comments:
Rubicund was listening to Ms. Simone at work and our faithful secretary shouted, "What do you know about Nina Simone." Apparently she thinks only African-Americans appreciate Nina Simone. How ironic.
 
Yeah, come to think of it, that may have thrown Nina into a little tizzy...
 
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