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Nina Simone Tribute

'Nina Simone  

When Nina Simone died in 2003 at the age of 70, the world was momentarily flooded with sound bites of "My Baby Just Cares for Me." She had recorded it when she was only 24. Chanel used it in a perfume commercial decades later. A new generation loved that voice! But they didn't know who the singer was.

Dee Dee Bridgewater knows (in college, she wrote a paper about Simone's "Four Women" and later they shared stages and became friends), and this week, she presents a New Year's Eve 1990 performance by Nina Simone in New York.

Nina Simone made art from her life. She was born Eunice Waymon in Tryon, NC. She was so talented that the hard working people of Tryon contributed to fund her musical education. She studied piano at Juilliard. Because of racial prejudice, her path to her dream of becoming a concert pianist was blocked. Her hands always revealed her classical training - certainly they do in this 1990 show.

One night, Eunice was playing piano in an Irish bar in Atlantic City when the owner told her to sing. She did. She took a new stage name, and "Nina Simone" was born, singing Broadway, blues and ballads, folk music and Ellington. She wrote poetic songs about the lives of black women in America. Singing from her soul was a courageous act, and Nina always sang from her soul. To her fans, she was "the high priestess of soul." Her performances were always, but always, personal.

In 1963, in response to the criminal bombing of a church in Birmingham in which four black girls were killed, she wrote "Mississippi Goddam." She named her heroes -- who were also her friends - Malcolm X and Martin Luther King. In 1990 she updated it, adding to the list of names in the news - George Bush, Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, Jesse Jackson, Michael Jackson. Music writer Dave Marsh describes "Mississippi Goddam" as "a jaunty cabaret arrangement [filled] with jokes that turn out to be time-bombs."

It feels appropriate to hear Nina Simone in 1990 for Martin Luther King Day 2004.

SONG LIST
"My Baby Just Cares for Me" (Donaldson/Kahn)
"Love Me or Leave Me" (Donaldson/Kahn)
"Images" (Cuney/Simone)
"Sea Line Woman" (Bass)
"I Put a Spell on You" (Hawkins)
"Little Girl Blue" (Rodgers/Hart)
"Mississippi Goddam" (Simone)
"Don't Smoke in Bed" (Robison/Lee/Barbour)
"Mood Indigo" (Bigard/Ellington/Mills)
Reprise of "My Baby Just Cares for Me"
From Dee Dee Bridgewater, dedicated to Nina Simone:
"Here I'll Stay" (Lerner/Weill)

RESOURCES

  • Nina Simone Official Web site
  • Nina Simone tribute by Critic Dave Marsh

    CREDITS
    Producer of the 1990 performance Dorthaan Kirk, WBGO, Newark, NJ
    Broadcast/recording producer Thurston Briscoe III
    Recording engineer Jim Anderson
    Recording preserved by Yujin Cha, funded by a grant from the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences
    Writer/producer Becca Pulliam
    Post production Duke Markos
    Recording engineer for Ms. Bridgewater Ginger Bruner at KUNV, Las Vegas
    Thanks to Program Director Gig Brown


    Copyright 2007 NPR