I share some memories and feelings? I am compelled to broadcast these
words to those I know who appreciate greatness and the triumph of a genuine
I saw Nina Simone while I was in undergraduate school at FSU during a
trip to New York. From that moment on, I never thought about race, women,
music, government, or fear the same. It was my transforming moment when,
by God, I would forever despise injustice and the senseless infliction
of pain on any human for any reason whatever.
Ms. Simone was hardly a weak, humble lady. She was defiant, justifiably
arrogant and proud of where she was from and how she got to where she
was. She did her talking through lyrics in her songs and the power of
her fingers on the piano. She commanded her audience to listen. Those
who did got a brief glimpse of heaven and hell.
Recently, I listened to her songs through the generosity of WLRN, Miamis
NPR station, which dedicated several hours to Ms. Simones incredible
music. The polite, respectful commentary by Jazz authority Len Pace convinced
me that he loved her. I know the feeling.
Through the kindness of a wealthy family in her hometown of Tryon, North
Carolina, Nina Simone began her career while a student at Juilliard. Her
first recording I recall was Gershwins I Loves You Porgy,
and I still wonder what it would be like to be loved with such power and
devotion. Life was surely rough for a young African-American female musician
during the 50s and 60s in America. Nina Simone moved permanently
to the south of France, mastered the language (she could sing any jazz
standard in Frenchcheck out her interpretation of If You Go
Away ("Ne me Quitte pas"). It is stunning.) When she died
in April, France mourned.
The final song played on WLRN's tribute was her astonishing Love
Me Or Leave Me. Nothing like it has ever been recorded. The piano
chorus pays homage to Mozart, Brahms and Bach, and the lyrics are loaded
with pain without surrender. I actually prayed that the song would not
Nina Simone awoke the world to the horrors of racism. When Martin Luther
King, Jr. was murdered, she composed. The King Is Dead, a
song that is so indescribably heartbreaking and gut-wrenching. Some radio
station, somewhere on earth is playing it today. Ms. Simone would only
ask that we listen.
I tried to write an essay for publication about the life and music of
Nina Simone, After all, I really did sit in her presence and I do love
her. This will have to be postponed when I am emotionally capable of expressing
thoughts that truly honor this remarkable lady.
Thanks for your time. Now, go out and get the CD, The Best of Nina
Simone. Open up a bottle of French wine, pour a little in a nice
crystal glass and listen to music from a goddess.
You will enjoy the experience. You really can do this alone. And youll
likely discover a new friend.