Friday, 14 January 2011

The sounds of the States – Part two: with his hot hands

Well, I did say poems, books and music (not just poems... it's never just poems for me...) so today's all American favourite is the marvellous, the magical, the mesmerising.... Miss Nina Simone (1933-2003).

We listen to quite a lot of Nina Simone music in this house but with the BBC Radio 2 documentary that's been on recently (narrated by her daughter, now singing under the name Simone...) this fantastic artist has been on my mind even more than usual. She really was a HUGE talent (one of the twentieth century's stand-out greats) and these days most people know that (which does show that sometimes we get it right!). Listening to the documentary (which doesn't tell you anything particularly new but does get some nice insights from close friends and family) I realised how much I loved her version of the song below. She sings it so gently and with such strength of feeling that it just stops you in your tracks. I think her appeal is largely due to the combination of overwhelming talent (has anyone ever played a piano with more understanding..?) and giant emotional range (in the programme her drummer Paul Robinson refers to her, lovingly, as 'organically deranged'...).

Song credits - music by George Gershwin and lyrics by DuBose Heyward and Ira Gershwin.

Another thing the Nina Simone documentary made me realise (that I suppose I already knew but had never really considered) - if it hadn't been for the racism that kept Eunice Waymon from progressing as a straightforward classical pianist we, the wider public, might never have known Nina Simone and her amazing, life-changing repertoire of popular songs. Something to ponder, for sure.

p.s. This may be the end of this (very short) series. I mean, how the heck do you follow Nina?



Kat Mortensen said...

I'm not familiar with Nina Simone's music, apart from the song that was used for an old Chanel ad, but I'm certain that given the opportunity, I could grow to love her. I've been a Billie Holiday fan for years - it's a question of how you come upon someone, isn't it?
I'll make an effort to get to know here better.

Rachel Fox said...

Oh, Kat - such joys and wonders in store for you. There really is nobody better than Nina!
You may start finding her voice tricky... but the more you listen the more you'll love it. And the piano playing is perfect. And there are so many songs to hear Ninafied. The best.

Niamh B said...

Have to agree 100% Nina is AMAZING, uplifting, a genius to watch on stage (on youtube)

Rachel Fox said...

Yes, and from what I hear (from friends who did see her live) no two performances were ever the same!

The Bug said...

Can't wait to go home & hear the song - but since Kat brought her up I had to mention that last night after a MISERABLE day at work I went home & took a Tylenol PM at dinner time. And ended up settling on the couch for a snooze by 7:30. The whole time I was snoozing I kept hearing the "Strange Fruit" song & trying to remember who sang it - finally, in my dream, I remembered Billie Holiday. Was she the one who sange it? I don't know, but I do know that dreaming about that song WAS strange!

P.S. Word Verif is "plate" - which is what you have a lot on right now Rachel :)

Rachel Fox said...

Yes that is one of Billie H's best known songs (though she did also sing the Porgy song that's on this post).

Sounds like you need another Xmas break, Bug!


Anonymous said...

It is hard to follow Nina. She is just a legend to me. A child prodigy on piano. I saw footage once of her playing Beethoven when she was 5 and it was unbelievable. And that voice, oh, that voice, multi-faceted - like gravel and treacle being poured at the same time. I love her. I always will.

Rachel Fox said...

You're a woman of taste, Selma. Her music is supreme.

Titus said...

Quite simply, I worship at this woman's feet. I don't use genius much, but she was one such.

Rachel Fox said...