The Amazing Nina Simone

8 03 2010

After seeing this first old video of Nina doing “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”, I wanted to listen to more but my LPs are all packed up. Left wanting more, I turned to YouTube to see how much else was out there… it turns out there is a lot of cool stuff.

Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood

“Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” was also played by The Animals. The Animals did this next one too, “House Of The Rising Sun”. This video is from The Bitter End (Greenwich Village, NYC) circa 1968. It’s actually 2 songs, the second being “Go To Hell”. A lot of Nina’s songs had larger arrangements behind them on the albums, which makes these live versions really cool. It’s great to hear the tunes stripped down a bit. They sound more authentic and sincere. Sincerity was always Nina’s strength so to say that humility is enhanced here is really testimony to how amazing she was live. She was serious when she sung and you can hear it in every lyric.

“House Of The Rising Sun” + “Go To Hell”

Through all the searching I found a really old and rare video of “I Loves You, Porgy”. Originally, from 1935 George Gershwin opera Porgy & Bess, it was one of Nina’s more popular tunes. I have to be honest, it’s a little boring but interesting to see nevertheless. It’s her playing solo in  1960 to what appears to be an all white audience. I only point that out because Nina was a well know activist for the Civil Rights Movement. There’s a story about how during her first public recital her mother was asked to move to the back of the room in order to give her front row seat to a white individual. Supposedly, it was that moment that ignited the fire that you hear in all her original material, as opposed to songs like this old standard show tune.

“I Loves You Porgy”

That fire I spoke of can be heard on such songs like “Sinnerman” and “I Ain’t Got No… I Got Life”. The former one you may recognize from various film soundtracks, most notably The Thomas Crown Affair. The later is a great song that is considered by many to be one of her best.

Sinnerman

The video posted below is from the early 60’s and is a lot slower than the way she plays it later in her career. Everything about this video is of it’s time… the sound of the music, the look of the band, the quality of the footage itself. The other element that is a reflection of the era is the mostly white audience. The link just below the old video will show you how she played the same song later that decade, just a little over a year after Martin Luther King was shot. It’s from Harlem Fest 1969. It’s a whole different feel (in so many ways). To help put it into perspective, The Harlem Cultural Festival was also called the “Black Woodstock”.

I Ain’t Got No… I Got Life

Nina Simone @ The Harlem Cultural Festival 1969


Nina Simone or should I say Eunice Wayman, as was her given name, had a incredible life. For more, reference the links below:

Nina Simone Official Site

Nina Simone on All About Jazz

Nina Simone on Wiki

NPR piece on Nina’s Biography

Buy The Amazing Nina Simone

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