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Ladies and gentlemen, the High Priestess of Soul Ms. Nina Simone

I just found out a few minutes ago that Nina Simone died today.

I didn't know Nina Simone. I read her book and I listened to her voice sing through my speakers nearly everyday, but I didn't know her. What I do know is that her music and her words had and continue to have a profound effect on me. Her voice is deep, strong and filled with powerful emotion. I don't care for high-pitched female voices. Nina Simone's voice is the kind that pulls your guts up into your throat.

I remember the first Nina Simone album I bought. It was a Verve compilation. I can't even remember what prompted me to buy it. I must have heard a song somewhere. I don't know. I remember when I played the cd I was disappointed. The first half of that album consists of mostly standards and I wasn't super impressed. The song Ms. Simone is most famous for, "I Loves You Porgy" has never done much for me. I listened to the last half of that album. Then I played it a few more times and it started to rub off on me. Then my brother bought me "Nina Sings the Blues" and I listened to it every single day for an entire year. I had to buy a cd copy because I started to get concerned about wearing down the grooves.

Nina's protest songs have always been my favourite and I think that body of work exemplifies her at her best. I don't think I have ever been able to sit through "Mississippi Goddamn" with dry eyes. I just love in the live version of that song when she says "This is a showtune but the show hasn't been written for it yet" and the audience laughs. She proceeds to belt out some really heavy verses about the brutality of life in America and follows up to the initial audience reaction with "I bet you thought I was kidding".

Personal favourites include "Why? (The King of Love is Dead)", "Baltimore" (still having a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that Randy Newman wrote this...), "Wild is the Wind", "Strange Fruit" (Gut wrenching. I often avoid this song because I can't take how much it rips me apart.), "I Wish I Knew How it Would Feel to be Free", "Revolution (Parts 1 & 2)", "Four Women", "Backlash Blues", "Save Me", "Go Limp". Lately, since my brother bought me "It Is Finished" for Xmas, I have placed "Dambala" at the forefront of my favourites.

For more about Nina Simone:

  • This Salon article is a good starting place
  • Nina Simone Web
  • Official Website
  • A fan site
  • I Put a Spell on You The autobiography of Nina Simone

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