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January 12, 2007 2:47 PM   Subscribe

"Feelings" - As only the brilliant but... ummm... eccentric (case in point: July/August 1995 in that last link) Dr. Nina Simone could've performed it.
posted by miss lynnster (39 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
From the "eccentric" link, circa summer of 1995:

July 1995 Paris (Reuter) - American jazz singer Nina Simone was convicted Wednesday of shooting at a noisy teen-ager with buckshot while gardening at her villa in southern France. She was fined $4,600 and ordered to undergo counseling. Two teens were playing in a swimming pool at the villa next door to Simone's in Bouc-Bel-Air on July 25. According to the singer's account, she twice asked them to keep it down. When they failed to cooperate, she fired rounds of buckshot across the hedge. A 15-year-old boy was slightly wounded. Simone's lawyer said the singer was fragile and depressed."


In the end she was given a suspended eight-month jail term and fined for damages to one of the boys, as he was hit in the legs with 11 pieces of metal shot. A psychological evaluation ordered by the court found that she had been "incapable of evaluating the consequences of her act."

Yep, she was a trip. Brilliant though, no question.
posted by miss lynnster at 2:56 PM on January 12, 2007


Thank you. Even though her piece was very emotional, something about it reminded me of Glen Gould.
posted by bhouston at 3:11 PM on January 12, 2007


Thanks for that, Nina's incredible. Here's a playlist with more songs, including Mississippi Goddamn.
posted by muckster at 3:20 PM on January 12, 2007


Thanks for the outstanding link. That made me very, very happy.
posted by koeselitz at 3:26 PM on January 12, 2007


Well, that was as painful to watch as most Nina Simone video ever is. Some singers are good singers, but their performance is ever about their own singing, never the song. Nina Simone, Barbra Streisand, Carly Simon, Joni Mitchell, Al Jarreau and Bobby McFerrin are all, IMHO, notable examples of this class of singer. They can be entertaining and even giftedly musical, but somehow, to me, they never rise to the standard of Ella Fitzgerald or Sarah Vaughan, who each managed, seemingly effortlessly, in every performance, to let their own personalities be overcome with the joy of bringing the rest of us a song.

An artist communicates best when all artifice disappears.
posted by paulsc at 3:35 PM on January 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


Shorter paulsc: Your favorite vocalist sucks.
posted by dhartung at 3:50 PM on January 12, 2007


paulsc: "Well, that was as painful to watch as most Nina Simone video ever is. Some singers are good singers, but their performance is ever about their own singing, never the song. Nina Simone, Barbra Streisand, Carly Simon, Joni Mitchell, Al Jarreau and Bobby McFerrin are all, IMHO, notable examples of this class of singer. They can be entertaining and even giftedly musical, but somehow, to me, they never rise to the standard of Ella Fitzgerald or Sarah Vaughan, who each managed, seemingly effortlessly, in every performance, to let their own personalities be overcome with the joy of bringing the rest of us a song."

An artist communicates best when all artifice disappears."


Agreed. But, first of all, the artifice is hardly there with Nina in the first place; and if you disagree, I have to say it doesn't sound like you've heard any Nina Simone records. She has a remarkable ability; her voice is very smooth and soulful. She's probably better suited to be a gospel singer than a jazz singer, it's true, but it's not only jazz singers that can be great. In addition, her soul extended beyond her singing; she's marvelously inventive, and she had a great love for people and for justice.

I agree with you that stuff like Sarah Vaughn's version of They Can't Take That Away From Me or Ella's concert with Duke at the Cote D' Azure is certainly more joyful. And maybe, in the end, that's what I'll need most; it's probably more meaningful, greater. But these are people you're talking about, and people are variable and changing, with many different things to offer. While I can't say I like Nina as much as I like Sarah, I can say that the world would be a better place if there were more singers like that today, and that it's only with a tragic sense of our own inadequacy that you and I can look back on Nina Simone and say that she's "not as great as Ella Fitzgerald."

Also, the rest I generally agree with, but if you put Joni Mitchell into that category, I doubt you've heard Blue. So go listen to it.
posted by koeselitz at 3:55 PM on January 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


"Shorter paulsc: Your favorite vocalist sucks."
posted by dhartung at 6:50 PM EST on January 12

Not what I said, at all, dhartung. I said Nina Simone is painful for me to watch, and I said why.

Big difference.
posted by paulsc at 3:56 PM on January 12, 2007


I should also say, to everybody: don't let the fact that Nina turned into a sort of doddering old woman prevent you from discovering her beauty and soul, or from seeing that, even apart from the fact that she's the most creative and inventive jazz singer of all time, she's wonderfully soulful, and very pleasing to listen to. Thank god there are people like her.
posted by koeselitz at 3:57 PM on January 12, 2007


Thank you so much for posting this!

I love Nina Simone's work, but I actually agree with paulsc. I just think the excruciating bits (flat notes, botched chords, awkward silences) make the complete package.

That said, I want a little sugar in my bowl.
posted by FYKshun at 4:10 PM on January 12, 2007


*throws a little sugar FYKshun's way*

Nina Simone is on my growing list of people who inspired a first reaction of: "...Really? This is really what she does? Really??" And then I listen more with disbelieving and dubious ears, trying to figure it out. And then suddenly I look up and a month has passed without my having listened to anyone else, and my heart is drenched like a sponge full of love for them.

Extra points if they got crazier and more tragic as they aged, for there but for the grace of gee-oh-dee go I...
posted by hermitosis at 4:20 PM on January 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


man, Nina Simone is my favorite performer of all time, and anyone who has a problem with her will have to meet me for pistols at dawn.

that said, what's remarkable to me about that performance is how, as eccentric as it is, it's so very reminiscent of her live performances as recorded on The Saga of the Good Life and the Hard Times.

For anyone who hasn't heard that album, there are tracks on it from a live performance she gave the day Martin Luther King was shot. She perfrmed Sunday in Savannah, which was reportedly MLK's favorite song and "Why (The King of Love is Dead)", pausing at times in the songs to either break down about the loss or discuss the anger that filled her at the act. It's really incredibly beautiful.

great post, thanks for this.
posted by shmegegge at 4:21 PM on January 12, 2007


Nina Simone is one of my faves as well and I think that she is definitely about the voice/personality and not necessarily the song. I think that with this one it doesn't work as well (it's "Feelings" for christ's sake... FEELINGS), but when she does songs like "Feeling Good," "I Loves You Porgy," or "I Got Life," I'd never want to hear Ella's pitch perfect renditions because sometimes joy is a hard-fought battle and Ms. Simone brings that strength to the song. I'm not really disagreeing with you paulsc, I'm saying that's why I love her.

And thanks for the link miss lynnster
posted by sleepy pete at 4:39 PM on January 12, 2007


A little disclaimer first... I'm a jazz singer so I can get into these conversations...

You are actually wrong if you think that Ella Fitzgerald & Sarah Vaughan left their personalities at the door as they sang. Every vocalist brings themselves into the song. Ella generally sang things by the book (this is why her songbook series was created, she was GREAT at following a composer or arranger's original melody & wishes without losing her style) with a bright & youthful approach. When she first sang as a kid singer with Chick Webb, he wouldn't let her do ballads because she was too young to sell one. As she aged, she still had that bright quality because it was her identity & personality. On the other hand, even the people who knew Sarah Vaughan best said they "hardly knew her" (she didn't even tell anyone when she was dying, she just kept doing shows as she declined). Her approaches are more sweeping and often filled with overdone vibrato... during various periods of Sarah's life, her voice is different & at times unpredictable. Ella stayed consistent through her later years.

That Nina was kinda nuts (I'm sorry, she was) to me isn't any kind of criticism, her personality is what made her the artist she was. She studied to be a classical pianist and that's what she wanted to do, but as a black woman she knew it was an impossibility. So she started singing. She resented every second that she couldn't be a classical pianist... the anger never dissipated and more than a few audiences got to hear her yell about the racism of it. She was an incredible talent, and most creative people have their demons. Her anger fueled her, and some of her angriest songs are some of the best jazz ever recorded.

I saw her at the Greek about a year before she died. She had a horrible band, and it was a crazy train wreck, but because she's Nina it was beautiful. I remember she had an African scepter sitting on the piano that she'd gotten from some tribal chief, and when she wanted applause she would stop playing and hold the scepter in the air. If she wanted continued applause, she would wave it around until she felt it was sufficient to stop. I LOVED IT. I want a scepter of my own. Sometimes crazy is good.
posted by miss lynnster at 4:41 PM on January 12, 2007 [2 favorites]


"... Also, the rest I generally agree with, but if you put Joni Mitchell into that category, I doubt you've heard Blue. So go listen to it."
posted by koeselitz at 6:55 PM EST on January 12

Let's agree to disagree on this, koeselitz. You'll be none the worse, and I'll save myself another hour of pretentious pitch sliding headaches, and painfully "present" mixing.
posted by paulsc at 4:45 PM on January 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


Powerful video miss lynnster. Thanks for the post. What a moving rendition of the song. Nina Simone was a marvelous vocalist, using her spoken words skilfully as part of the emotional content of the singing.

I came to know about Nina Simone's on stage eccentricity in one of my favorite movies, Before Sunset. In it Julie Delpy's character, Celine, seduces Ethan Hawke's character, Jesse, by playfully enacting Nina Simone on stage.

The video of Nina Simone playing Feelings, brought me to tears and then, all of a sudden she was menacing, then she was like a fragile little girl, then seething with rage, then wistful, almost lost and helpless. What an emotional roller coaster in such a short span! I couldn't help wondering if she didn't suffer from the volatile mood swings of Borderline Personality Disorder and that was somewhat validated in the Wikipedia essay on her. It's so poignant because at the core of BPD are the feelings of loss, abandonment and emptiness expressed in that song, Feelings.

Nina Simone: "You can see colors through music... Anything human can be felt through music, which means there is no limit to the creating that can be done... it's infinite."

and

"Jazz is a white term used to define Black people. My music is Black Classical Music."
posted by nickyskye at 4:52 PM on January 12, 2007 [2 favorites]


Nina Simone was brilliant, but she did decline early, and that can be painful to watch and hear. I much prefer her earlier, less erratic work. But then, I get no kicks from listening to the last Billie Holiday recordings either - it's that train wreck again.

That Nina was kinda nuts (I'm sorry, she was) to me isn't any kind of criticism, her personality is what made her the artist she was. I find that demeaning to her artistry, and wrong besides.

Also, I find it hard to put Ella and Sarah together - their approaches were polar opposites. Ella generally remained faithful to the melody, though of course she played with it expertly as any jazz musician would. Sarah, especially in later years, liked to keep far afield of the tune, and you listen to her to get a "Sarah-fied" version of the song.
posted by QuietDesperation at 5:04 PM on January 12, 2007


miss lynnster writes: She studied to be a classical pianist and that's what she wanted to do, but as a black woman she knew it was an impossibility.

I wonder how her experience in trying to be a classical pianist differed from that of others.
posted by found missing at 5:07 PM on January 12, 2007


She was an amazing, angry musician ("Little Boy Blue" is...transcendent), and the anger took her bad places, but why does shooting at loud teenage boys make you crazy? That just sounds sensible to me.
posted by QIbHom at 5:23 PM on January 12, 2007


"... I came to know about Nina Simone's on stage eccentricity in one of my favorite movies, Before Sunset. ..."
posted by nickyskye at 7:52 PM EST on January 12

If you loved that bit, you'd adore 1993's Point of No Return, in which Bridget Fonda plays a homicidal killer that demands Nina Simone albums to stay on her good behavior, while the CIA trains her in a lockdown facility to be a killer operative.

Ms. Simone's licensing deals were sometimes interesting choices.
posted by paulsc at 5:26 PM on January 12, 2007


I don't mean it in ANY demeaning way, QuietDesperation, very far from it. I said it flippantly because that's the way I talk, but she was an incredibly smart woman & her brilliance is part of what drove her to the edge. She struggled. That struggle definitely broke her sometimes. And that she took things so far, that created many moments of brilliance.

If Nina Simone had gone on Zoloft, would she have been the powerful artist she was?

And I brought Ella & Sarah into the conversation BECAUSE they were polar opposites. That's the whole point I was making. Even the way they hit notes, Ella hit a melody vertically, she attacked each individual note with precision from the top. Sarah sang horizontally, blending from note to note in forward motion. The point I was making is that they were VERY different people, and THAT'S what makes the artistry of each vocalist so incredibly unique.
posted by miss lynnster at 5:32 PM on January 12, 2007


"You are actually wrong if you think that Ella Fitzgerald & Sarah Vaughan left their personalities at the door as they sang."
posted by miss lynnster at 7:41 PM EST on January 12

That's not what I said, and not what I think. I said that they "let their own personalities be overcome with the joy of bringing the rest of us a song." A far different thing, and a wise artistic choice, generally, indeed. Cooler-than-thou having a fairly short shelf life, overall.

"When she [Ella] first sang as a kid singer with Chick Webb, he wouldn't let her do ballads because she was too young to sell one."

She was only 21 when Chick Webb died in 1939, and she was still showing up for her feature spots with Webb dressed in Empire waisted pinafores with flowers in her hair (scroll down for image). Across town, a mature Lady Day was singing full sets with Artie Shaw, and bawlin' the hell out of ballads and torch songs. So sue Ella's estate if you think she took the wrong career advice, but the last thing Webb wanted was any comparisons between the young, fresh faced Ella, and anybody else.
posted by paulsc at 5:51 PM on January 12, 2007


I loved that one interview where she called Quincy Jones a race traitor for marrying a white woman.

And she also explicitly stated her opposition to race-mixing of any kind.

So, great performer, fucked up person.

(and yes, I do know about her life and experiences and bitterness; thought i'd just throw this out there)
posted by erskelyne at 5:55 PM on January 12, 2007


Who said I said she took the wrong advice? Whaaaa?

When I started singing, I did a weekly 4 hour show at the Formosa Cafe in Hollywood based on the music of LA Confidential. All poppy 20's-40's stuff with some ballads thrown in. I have recordings of it & the biggest thing I learned from listening to them recently was that when I started out I COULDN'T SELL A BALLAD. I was brand new to performing & nervous as Hell, and I wasn't mature enough as a singer to be vulnerable or deeply emotional onstage. I was always worried about what people thought and which notes I hit. I was too green and self-conscious.

Years later, as I went through pain in my life & found my vocal style & comfort onstage, I found more and more challenging and deeply emotional songs that I could relate to and that I could channel my feelings into. I learned how to put myself on stage. That doesn't happen overnight for ANY singer.

I think Chick Webb was totally right.

ONLY to prove my point & that I'm not speaking out of my rear, if you want to hear me sing a ballad, click here. I am ABSOLUTELY NOT self linking for any reason other than to reiterate that I understand better than you think -- I NEVER could have sung a song that way at 19!!! It takes life experience & growth to truly nail a ballad honestly & vulnerably in your own style, not copying someone else. THIS IS WHY I LOVE NINA & EVERYTHING SHE WAS. People like me learn from her bravery to put herself out there.
posted by miss lynnster at 6:09 PM on January 12, 2007


paulsc, I loved Bridget Fonda in Point of No Return, the American version of La Femme Nikita, which was even cooler as a flick. I'd forgotten her character wants Nina Simone records. Wonder if that was a holdover from the French version?

miss lynnster, oooh, love your singing! Have you posted to MF Music?

I think Nina Simone was on medications, as mentioned in the Wikipedia essay referring to the biography Break Down And Let It All Out, written by Sylvia Hampton and David Nathan. Actually Zoloft is one of the meds for BPD. I think the disorder takes a person away from their capacity to function. And yes, I do think she would have been the powerful artist she was had she taken better meds earlier on in her career, without the severity of dysfunction and possibly far more successful to boot. I think her innate artistry and intelligence would have shone through.
posted by nickyskye at 6:15 PM on January 12, 2007


Honestly paulsc, I am still shaking my head in confusion about why on Earth you'd even suggest that I (of all people! The jazz singer with 289 Ella songs in her ipod!) sue Ella Fitzgerald's estate... for any reason...? WTF?

I even went to Ella Fitzgerald's estate sale after she died. Almost bought a pair of her big coke-bottle sunglasses... still wish I had.
posted by miss lynnster at 6:22 PM on January 12, 2007


I didn't post to MF music because it looks like it's only for original songs, isn't it? Not for people who do covers? I'm a classic jazz girl...
posted by miss lynnster at 6:23 PM on January 12, 2007


I heard she did an awesome version of "Straight Outta Compton". As Dr. Dre once said, "If I got my Nina, then you know I'm straight trippin'."
posted by Eideteker at 7:47 PM on January 12, 2007


"Honestly paulsc, I am still shaking my head in confusion about why on Earth you'd even suggest that I (of all people! The jazz singer with 289 Ella songs in her ipod!) sue Ella Fitzgerald's estate... for any reason...? WTF?..."
posted by miss lynnster at 9:22 PM EST on January 12

Because if you have any arguements to take up with a dead person, about how they lived their life, about all you can do, practically, is sue their estate. It was a rhetorical device on my part, miss lynnster, not a serious suggestion. IANAL, TINLA, etc., etc.
posted by paulsc at 8:26 PM on January 12, 2007


That's Nina Gordon, Eideteker. Scroll down to "Covers".
posted by emelenjr at 8:33 PM on January 12, 2007


I loved Bridget Fonda in Point of No Return, the American version of La Femme Nikita, which was even cooler as a flick. I'd forgotten her character wants Nina Simone records. Wonder if that was a holdover from the French version?

I believe it was Josephine Baker records in the original movie, and the girl's code name became 'Josephine' (as in the American version it was 'Nina.')
posted by tomboko at 8:50 PM on January 12, 2007


You missed points entirely, johnmc. I never even IMPLIED that not having her sing ballads was a bad thing! I was saying that she started when she was too young to be able to sing ballads. THAT'S ALL!!! There was NO negative comment... you pulled that nuttiness out of the ether. I could never, in a million years, have a single complaint on this Earth about Ella Fitzgerald, that's just crazy talk.

Anyhow, back on topic... Nina rocked.
posted by miss lynnster at 8:56 PM on January 12, 2007


excellent post.
posted by brandz at 9:01 PM on January 12, 2007


/derail
miss lynnster, I've noticed on MF Music that once in a while people post other people's music, done their own way, such as Deck the Halls, Auld Lang Syne, Still Crazy After All These Years. Perhaps you could ask Jessamyn or mathowie?

Thanks tomboko :) Cool snippet of info there.
posted by nickyskye at 9:50 PM on January 12, 2007


Great post, and loved your performance, miss lynnster.
posted by maryh at 12:57 AM on January 13, 2007


miss lynnster, oooh, love your singing!

But I *hate* how accomplished you are. Smart, visually talented and can sing like an angel to boot.

If you're ever in need of a deadbeat layabout bigamist husband...
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:00 AM on January 13, 2007


Thanks for the compliment. I've been working at home & barely got out of my pajamas all week so I've not been feeling like I accomplish much of anything lately... ;)
Hmmm... deadbeat layabout bigamist husband, huh? Wow, that's awfully tempting... can I get back to you?
posted by miss lynnster at 2:41 AM on January 13, 2007


(Not much other than posting too often on mefi all week, that is...)
posted by miss lynnster at 3:23 AM on January 13, 2007


If she is under your skin she is in.
posted by MapGuy at 8:01 AM on January 13, 2007


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