Sunday, May 23, 2010

FOCUS ON: NINA SIMONE


I remember the first time I heard "My Baby Cares For Me" and I thought it was a man singing it.

I knew it didn't sound exactly like a male voice and I double checked the name of the artist and it said Nina Simone.

It made me love the song even more.

Afterwards, I sought out more music by this artist with the extraordinary and unusual voice. All you have to hear is just the first few notes, you know exactly who it is.

She is a fascinating artist who sings with such deep emotion that very few singers can compare to what she can do. Like Aretha Franklin, she is capable of taking well known and widely covered music and truly make it sound fresh like a brand new song.

Born Eunice Waymon in North Carolina, she changed her name to Nina Simone when she started her career to protect her mother from knowing that she was performing the "devil's music". "Nina" was a nickname that was given to her by a boyfriend and "Simone" was from the French film actress, Simone Signoret.

She began playing the piano at the age of three and she continued playing at her church. At seventeen, she applied for a scholarship at the Curtis Institute. While she gave a very good audition, she failed to get in to the school. An insider informed her that she was rejected because she was black. This infuriated her and helped fuel her future involvement in the civil rights movement.

She was known for her commanding stage presence and her live performances were once in a lifetime events. She was also well known for being "difficult" but it was disclosed much later in her life that she suffered from schizophrenia and was bipolar.

She was dubbed "The High Priestess of Soul" but she disliked being categorized. She recorded over forty albums during her career and they cover a wide range of musical styles including gospel, blues, classical, pop and jazz.

Ms Simone passed away in 2003 but her music still continues to inspire other musical artists and is heard in countless commercials, film and television programs.


I have heard that a film is being prepared, to begin hopefully sometime next year, on the life of Ms Simone which will star Mary J. Blige. Although I'm not crazy about the casting, I think it's wonderful that she will be getting some long overdue recognition and that it may expose her music to a younger generation.

Here are few of my favorite songs. I have also included "Feeling Good", thanks to Michael Buble, too many "American Idol" contestants have felt this is an easy song to sing and wind up sucking the life out of it. If they had first heard Ms Simone's version, they might have thought twice about doing it or at least, the way they performed it.

NUMBER ONE FLASHBACK

I can't believe it but it's been forty years since " Best of My Love " by The Emotions landed at number one on the pop...