Saturday, November 17, 2012

My Fantasy Girlfriend - Nina Simone

I've commented a number of times before on my propensity to fall in love with a woman's voice, especially a fine singing voice. And since this might be the last entry in my 'Fantasy Girlfriends' series (or the last but one), I thought it was about time I honoured the singer whom I have admired more than any other.

Nina Simone was hardly classically beautiful, not the obvious head-turner that so many of my more superficial choices in this series have been. But damn, she had character - a ferocious intelligence, a devilish sense of humour, an utter intolerance of bullshit, courage, determination, and an impassioned commitment to the American civil rights cause and more generally to the ideals of equality and social justice for all. It's the personality that enraptures me rather than her looks. And the talent, of course. As well as that astonishingly rich and passionate voice, she was a classically trained pianist, and tried to fuse classical elements like the formal intricacy of her beloved Bach with her jazz playing.

I don't think I've ever heard a Nina Simone performance - any performance of any song - that didn't leave me slack-jawed and weak-kneed with admiration and delight. Now that there's such a profusion of her work becoming available online, I can lose myself on Youtube for days at a time.

Here are a just a few favourites....

First of all, a glimpse of her political side in the brief interview accompanying these performances of Revolution and Strange Fruit.

Second, a rare early performance of one of the most famous of her own compositions, Mississippi Goddamn - another scathing comment on the civil rights struggle.

And finally, something rather more upbeat - the Anthony Newley/Leslie Bricusse song Feeling Good.

Of course, I've posted about Nina on here once before, with a clip of her coruscating performance of I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free from the 1976 Montreux Jazz Festival.

And I'm going to post one of her love songs, He Needs Me, over on The Barstool today as well.

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