The first time I heard the deep, sultry voice of Nina Simone singing “Feelin’ Good” it was an emotional collision on my entire existence. “Feelin Good” knocked me right off my feet like a lightning bolt and I immediately realized this star would hold me as a spellbound hostage of her resonance until my last aural moment on this earth. Nina Simone is legend with attitude! Of course she must be a Diva! Famously hard to categorize, Simone’s regal bearing and commanding stage presence earns her the title “High Priestess of Soul”.
Her live performances have been regarded not as mere concerts, but as happenings. In a single concert she could be a protest singer; a jazz singer; a pianist; an arranger and a composer, all simultaneously. Though its perhaps most accurate to label her as a “soul” singer in terms of emotion, rather than form. Simone was an eclectic who brought soulful qualities to whatever material she interpreted. These qualities were among her strongest virtues; paradoxically, they also may have kept her from attaining a truly mass audience. The same could be said of her stage persona; admired for her forthright honesty and individualism, she was also known for feisty feuding with audiences and promoters alike.
On stage, Simone moved from gospel to blues, jazz and folk, to numbers infused with European classical styling, and counterpoint fugues. She incorporated monologues and dialogues with the audience into the program, and often used silence as a musical element Simone compared it to “mass hypnosis. I use it all the time…,
Simone, who had been living in France in the last years of her life was also known for her prowess as a composer and arranger and for such social statement songs as “Mississippi Goddam” and “Old Jim Crow.
Born Eunice Kathleen Waymon into a North Carolina family of eight children on February 21, 1933, the notoriously feisty, powerful singer showed an early talent for singing and playing piano. At age 10, Simone’s parents were removed from the front row of her music recital to accommodate a white couple — an incident that helped inspire her commitment to civil rights. If Simone had a chip on her shoulder, it probably arose from the formidable obstacles she had to overcome to establish herself as a popular singer. She originally harbored hopes of becoming a classical pianist, studying at New York’s prestigious Julliard School of Music — a rare position for an African-American woman in the 1950s. Needing to support herself while she studied, she generated income by working as an accompanist and giving piano lessons. Auditioning for a job as a pianist in an Atlantic City nightclub, she was told she had the spot if she would sing as well as play. Almost by accident, she began to carve a reputation as a singer of secular material, though her skills at the piano would serve her well throughout her career. She adopted her stage name in 1954 while working as the singer/pianist in residence at the Midtown Bar and Grill in Atlantic City, New Jersey, taking Nina from the Spanish word for “girl,” and Simone from the French actress Simone Signoret.
Her first public notice came in 1959 with a top 20 hit version of George Gershwin’s “I Loves You Porgy”from his opera Porgy and Bess, a million-seller that was the only top 40 hit of her career. But I choose two
“I am Feeling Good”(aka Feelin’ Good) is a song written by Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse for the 1965 musical The Roar of the Greasepaint—the Smell of the Crowd .
What not is there to love about Sinnerman? Simone learned the lyrics of this 109 year old song in her childhood when it was used at revival meetings by her mother, a Methodist minister, to help people confess their sins. In the early days of her career during the early sixties, when she was heavily involved in the Greenwich Village scene, Simone often used the long piece to end her live performances.
Nina Simone never compromised what and who she was. She is one of my inspirations always and forever….Smoke on. Sing on. Live on. Ma Belle Cheri Nina…. It makes me wanna Holler!!!
For it was not into my ear you whispered, but into my heart. It was not my lips you kissed, but my soul.