The Fierce Courage of Nina Simone by Adam Shatz
Richard Pryor moved to New York City in 1963, where he performed regularly in clubs alongside performers such as Bob Dylan and Woody Allen. He even opened for singer and pianist Nina Simone, who talked of his early nervousness, when she put her "arms around him there in the dark and rocked him like a baby until he calmed down." You can see something of that young man in this clip of Pryor singing a bit of jazzy blues in 1966. The performance is also available on YouTube with slightly better quality, but faded in from different scene. [more inside]
"...A Fourth of July picnic, a Sunday Best church revival, an urban rock concert and a rural civil rights rally"
There was a historic music festival in the summer of 1969. But it's not the one that took place in Bethel, NY. The Harlem Cultural Festival ran from June 29 to August 24 that summer, presenting a concert every Sunday afternoon in Mount Morris Park (known today as Marcus Garvey Park). Three hundred thousand people turned out for the six free concerts, hearing acts like Nina Simone , Sly & the Family Stone (the only act to play both Woodstock and the "black Woodstock"), Stevie Wonder, Mahalia Jackson, The 5th Dimension, Moms Mabley and. Speakers included Jesse Jackson and "blue-eyed soul brother" Mayor John Lindsay. Security was courtesy of the Black Panthers, since the NYC police refused to provide it. Filmmaker Hal Tulchin recorded over 50 hours of concert footage, which has remained unreleased. Historic Films seems to hold the footage; it was supposed to be made into a movie to premiere at Sundance 2007, but its release seems to be continually delayed for reasons unclear. [more inside]
We've previously agreed that Dr. Nina Simone created some amazing music. As a person, she was openly angry and, yes, a smidgen nuts. Big surprise... she was also not the easiest interview. (Big understatement.)