July 30, 2007 8:19 AM   Subscribe

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.)
posted by miss lynnster (50 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Dr. Nina Simone

Prefix for an honorary degree?
posted by damn dirty ape at 8:22 AM on July 30, 2007

You're only questioning her degrees because you're racist.
posted by miss lynnster at 8:26 AM on July 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

And a man.
posted by YoBananaBoy at 8:28 AM on July 30, 2007

And a smidgen nuts.
posted by phaedon at 8:29 AM on July 30, 2007

A damn, dirty man.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:30 AM on July 30, 2007

and not the easiest interview.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:30 AM on July 30, 2007

*walks out of the room slowly, backwards, and closes door on way out*
posted by damn dirty ape at 8:30 AM on July 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

I can't wait until the afterlife when I get to meet my real parents, Nina Simone and Tennessee Williams.
posted by hermitosis at 8:30 AM on July 30, 2007 [2 favorites]

*damn dirty ape folds*
posted by phaedon at 8:33 AM on July 30, 2007

Wow. There must've been some serious roofie drinks involved for Nina Simone & Tennessee Williams to touch eachother. That's impressive, hermitosis.
posted by miss lynnster at 8:39 AM on July 30, 2007

It took a lot of female balls to be openly angry back then, with laws on the books preventing people from being angry. Thank God for the 1985 SCOTUS decision decreeing that the right to anger was protected by the US Constitution.
posted by DU at 8:41 AM on July 30, 2007

You're only questioning her degrees because you're racist.

Or maybe you are.

"The Diva, who was as well an Honorary Doctor in Music and Humanities, has an unrivalled legendary status as one of the very last 'griots". She is and will forever be the ultimate songstress and storyteller of our times."

posted by IronLizard at 8:42 AM on July 30, 2007

That's grandpa simpson, isn't it?
posted by robself at 8:43 AM on July 30, 2007

posted by Astro Zombie at 8:46 AM on July 30, 2007

Or maybe YOU are! Tag! You're it!    *runs away*
posted by miss lynnster at 8:47 AM on July 30, 2007

*damn dirty ape folds*

But does he blend?
posted by sparkletone at 8:50 AM on July 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

Wow. There must've been some serious roofie drinks involved for Nina Simone & Tennessee Williams to touch eachother.

Well, they're my afterlife parents, which means I was conceived in a flophouse on a wild night of driving Delta rain, when a rum cocktail spilled onto the keyboard of a humidity-warped baby grand piano just moments before the building was struck by lightning and burned to the ground. The flames that licked through the piano played a song, and that song became a baby, swaddled in an abandoned manuscript, with ashes in its hair.

My bad, should have elaborated.
posted by hermitosis at 8:52 AM on July 30, 2007 [3 favorites]

I get how every couple of weeks, we make fun of Nina Simone for acting like a total loon. Now I don't know if anyone else is listening, but Simone totally rocked that fucking interviewer. And he was acting like a condescending piece of shit in return. So I'm not buying this "that bitch is crazy" post, because at the end of the day, she toured the world, and connected with a lot of people, through her music. Simone's farts are more priceless than the questions coming by way of this douchebag.

Interviewer: You actually have lived outside the united states, for oh...

Simone: Twenty-five years.

Interviewer: Why did you leave?

Simone: Racism.

[very long pause]

Interviewer: And there.. you found no opportunity to deal with that within the united states, i trust?

Simone: I... beg your pardon?

Interviewer: Well, you felt you had to leave because of that?

Simone: That's right.

Interviewer: How do audiences outside of the united states differ in their uh, admiration of you, than those inside the united states?

Simone: They differ because they ask all about the racism here. i was just with President Mandela in South Africa, and they all wanted to know about the racism here, and i told them it was worse than ever.

Interviewer: How.. describe how you think it's worse compared to a time when they were killing off African-American leaders, and bombing little girls...

Simone: Well, it's subtle now.

Interviewer: [maximum tongue in cheek has been reached at this point] It's more subtle now, you think.

Simone: Yes.

Interviewer: Hmph!

Simone: But it's just as bad. It's in the very fabric of american society.

Interviewer: So what are your long term expectations, or hopes, for african american people here in the united states?

Simone: My dear man, i think unless they leave, they are going to die here, because there aren't any leaders anymore.

Interviewer: what will they die of?

Simone: Racism!

[very long pause]

I see. I was surprised to read in my research that you actually did not originally intend to become a singer...

I mean, come on.
posted by phaedon at 9:05 AM on July 30, 2007 [3 favorites]

i think unless they leave, they are going to die here

Isn't that pretty much true of EVERYWHERE?
posted by tadellin at 9:12 AM on July 30, 2007

Isn't that pretty much true of EVERYWHERE?

Yeah, until you read her VERY NEXT COMMENT.
posted by hermitosis at 9:15 AM on July 30, 2007

Yeah, well, she did pretty much hand him his hat, though.
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:15 AM on July 30, 2007


a) I would never... FUCKING NEVER... call Nina Simone a bitch. I perform her songs and I LURVE her. This is why I've done two posts on her. Not to MOCK her.

b) I said she was SLIGHTLY NUTS. That doesn't equal to "the bitch is crazy." Previously I used the word eccentric, and I meant it in the same way. I just didn't want to use the same word twice. Do not put words in my mouth which are not there.

c) You clearly did not listen to the entire interview.
posted by miss lynnster at 9:17 AM on July 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

DAMMIT GET BACK HERE. Oh, wait, nevermind.
posted by IronLizard at 9:26 AM on July 30, 2007

I said she was SLIGHTLY NUTS.

Nina's obviously slightly nuts -- perhaps even slightly more than slightly. She's a sensitive woman, whose diva status has given her a sense of entitlement, during a period when African Americans were still confronted by racism on a daily basis.

I think that that would inevitably make anyone furious, and her fury comes through at every available opportunity. She seems to have made a decision at some point that she's not going to 'go along to get along', but she's going to put principle before everything else. As a result, she sometimes appears to see slights where no slights exist or were intended. In her place, I'd probably feel and behave in exactly the same way.

But then I'm slightly nuts too.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:54 AM on July 30, 2007

Why not?

Priceless stuff.
posted by progosk at 9:59 AM on July 30, 2007

Right, so this guy's job is to invite living legends on to his show, have them speak frankly about their beliefs, and then frame his responses so as to make Simone's comments appear even more alienating than they already are, and to top it off, challenge the idea that her black separatist beliefs are at the root of her music, and make it appear as if that they are a symptom of some sort of dementia. A tactic, whether deservedly so or not, that has been used to belittle Malcolm X, Garvey, and Farrakhan, as well as their followers. And then this is eventually made available on a album that pops up on my iTunes as "Celebrities at their worst volume 2.9 bitch bitch bitch!" Brilliant.

I did in fact stop listening to the interview around the point where I stopped transcribing, but since you have the benefit of my doubt, I listened to the rest of the interview expecting to have my salad tossed, and only found myself getting angrier. This guy makes it sound like the fact that there are so many black people living in the United States is some sort of testament to the idea that there is no racism here. I warmly remember some of my teachers - an African-American man, a Jewish woman - who felt they were kept out of top-tier universities because of their race, and I sensed a degree of embitterment that goes beyond just those achievements they were kept from attaining, and extends to the fact that the younger generation simply does not understand, or believe, that such things happen, or happened, because we live in a world were "affirmative action" and "desegregation" is supposed to have solved these problems.

While I think it's fair to call Simone "slightly nuts", I just wanted to point out that this interviewer is "slightly a shithead". Since you're getting all defensive about me putting words in your mouth, which I wouldn't do, let me add that your intentions became totally unclear to me when you added that "look at crazy Simone shooting a pellet gun at those pesky French kids", as if that had something to do with anything other than calling her out for being crazy.
posted by phaedon at 10:12 AM on July 30, 2007 [2 favorites]

other than calling her out for being crazy.

...in a way that you are suggesting should diminish her reputation and her beliefs.
posted by phaedon at 10:16 AM on July 30, 2007

Phaedon? I adore eccentric people. I don't know what it says about me, but I've always found her need to shooting a pellet gun into screaming children to be strangely endearing. And as I've previously stated, when I saw her live I was TOTALLY DISAPPOINTED that she was in a good mood, because I LIKE the angry Nina Simone. I've studied her music backwards and forwards, I've paid to have my own arrangements of things inspired by her. So damn.

All I said was that she was a difficult interview. And I agree, I think the guy was completely unprepared and not a great interviewer.

Quit attacking me. It's uncalled for.
posted by miss lynnster at 10:24 AM on July 30, 2007

Stop being all cuddly. I'm pissed!
posted by phaedon at 10:32 AM on July 30, 2007

....DAMN IT!
posted by phaedon at 10:33 AM on July 30, 2007

I don't see an attack here, it's just that this is MetaFilter, where even sloppy kisses hurt a little.
posted by hermitosis at 10:34 AM on July 30, 2007

I will say that I find it hard to believe that Oprah Winfrey is treated like a dirty hippie though.
But whatever. As a white girl, I've got a busy day of planning genocide ahead of me. Gotta go.
posted by miss lynnster at 10:38 AM on July 30, 2007

But whatever. As a white girl, I've got a busy day of planning genocide ahead of me. Gotta go.

I really don't care how much you adore Simone, you put this shit post together for some truly epic lulz. I'm sorry you pay tribute to her that way.
posted by phaedon at 10:57 AM on July 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

Okay, some kisses hurt way more than others.
posted by hermitosis at 11:00 AM on July 30, 2007

phaedon? It wasn't for the lulz. I love Nina. You have NO IDEA how much I tribute Nina.

You wanted to be angry and told me to stop being cuddly. You need to make up your freaking mind.
posted by miss lynnster at 11:05 AM on July 30, 2007

As much as I think Nina would approve of this scuffle, take it to MeTa, you rascals. I can barely hear "Lilac Wine" playing over all this noise.
posted by hermitosis at 11:10 AM on July 30, 2007

And by the way? If I was actually going for epic lulz? I would've put a hell of a lot more effort into it. That's how I roll when I want LULZ. Which is a phrase I hate, might I add.

Anyhow, thanks for the indignant derail of a post I made about a a person and an interview that I actually found fascinating.
posted by miss lynnster at 11:11 AM on July 30, 2007

Thanks for the links.

The interview is simultaneously appalling and amazing because she sounds medicated within a hair's breath of consciousness and still manages to stay on, what was for her, a lifelong message. Love or hate her message, Simone rarely wavered from it and I respect her as much for that as for her music.

The interviewer clearly expected some sort of typical walk down memory lane, perhaps buttoned at the end by an inspirational message to "all the young people out there", with maybe a few anecdotes about their shared magical night of dancing and dinner 20 years ago thrown in for good measure. What he got instead was the reality of an aging, ill, activist/artist forced into one more show in Newark to pay the bills. (Nothing againt Newark; just pointing out we're not talking about Carnegie Hall here.)

I'd welcome a similar prescription-med-addled but still somewhat vital Bob Dylan reading Tarantula from his hospital bed than the lingerie hawking, now-available-at-your-local-Starbucks shill he's been turned into any day of the week.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 11:16 AM on July 30, 2007

I'm done, hermitosis. Don't worry. I'm not even going to check in here again, I'm bummed it got all fucked up and ugly. I was in such a good mood when I posted it, listening to her & stuff. Oh well. I think I need a break from this place.
posted by miss lynnster at 11:16 AM on July 30, 2007

As a white guy, I hope one day racism will be treated as the widespread mental health issue it is. Feeling angry and speaking angrily about racism isn't crazy, though it's so far outside the norm of most white people's experience that it's easy to misjudge it so.
posted by sudama at 11:21 AM on July 30, 2007

Miss lynster, that is a gorgeous tribute. Thank you.
posted by stereo at 11:31 AM on July 30, 2007

I'm not being indignant, and I'm not even fucking derailing. I'm glad you posted the controversial interview, but don't at all think a link to some stupid pellet incident as context is up to snuff in this particular case, lynn. I've already fucking complimented you quite extensively on your work, but that is neither here nor there. This "I adore Nina Simone, now I have to go back to planning the genocide" type of humor, I just think it's off the mark.

As for making up my mind, it's only after you mock the articulated fear of a woman whose life has probably been more twisted by others than through any fault of her own, that I realized you're going out of your way to humiliate her beliefs.
posted by phaedon at 11:56 AM on July 30, 2007

If you want to read a little more about Dr. Simone, you may want to start here. You may especially pay attention to the section headed "Being Difficult". (scroll down)
posted by MotherTucker at 12:25 PM on July 30, 2007

Please help me better understand your point, MotherTucker. Are you saying that Simone's possible bipolar disorder somehow means we should chalk up her responses to racism to paranoia or mental disease? To use a pretty tired chestnut around here, just because you're paranoid doesn't mean somebody's not out to get you.

I'm asking honestly, because scroll up and there's an entire paragraph about her work with Larraine Hansberry and Langston Hughes during the civil rights era in the sixties and seventies. Neither of them, to my knowledge, were ever accused of being "difficult" and, even if they were, it hardly matters.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 1:05 PM on July 30, 2007

Maybe one of the triad can erase about half the comments in here and we can try again.
posted by IronLizard at 1:21 PM on July 30, 2007

posted by nasreddin at 1:22 PM on July 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'm just acknowledging that I didn't know that the woman was medicated for a bipolar disorder from the mid sixties until her death in 2003. Everyone can draw their own conclusions as to how her personality was affected by racism, paranoia, or overmedication.

You heard that very sad interview... a complete negation of race relations in America since the murder of MLK. She admitted it herself: she was a sick woman.
posted by MotherTucker at 1:24 PM on July 30, 2007

MotherTucker, I'm not bitching at you and I thank you for clarifying your point. To me, she's admitting to being physically ill, not mentally, in the interview, and she sounds to me like someone on heavy sedatives rather than medication for bipolar disorder. We have people in our family who cope with that particular illness, and they're perfectly reasonable and rational when on their meds. We're not even sure of her diagnosis, though, so perhaps whatever she's on is for a mental condition. Anyway, she sounds exhausted and zonked out on some sort of heavy downer to me.

And, yes, the whole interview is quite sad, but chiefly, to me, because the interviewer is arguing with her rather than drawing her out on the specifics of her own experiences. Or, in the alternative, plugging her next gig and letting her get back to sleep. Sheesh. Put on some of her music and then let the callers talk about it for the rest of the time allotted for her interview. She wasn't up to it. It was poor form on the show's part to persist just to fill airtime. Still, she always had the courage to speak her mind on stage and in print and on-camera interviews, incapacitated or otherwise. For that, I greatly admire her.

I do agree with her, though, about racism taking subtler forms now. My family is from New Orleans, many relatives live all over the south, and it's a rare visit home that I don't see evidence of this. In fact, when I was growing up in New Orleans, I sang in the school chorus and two of our members were not allowed to sing in a Christmas concert with us at a certain private club because they were black. This was in the mid-eighties, certainly in the post-MLK era. Their parents, understandably, caused a huge stink and pulled them out of the choir for the rest of their time at the school.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 2:10 PM on July 30, 2007

This made my day. Thanks for posting!
posted by dydecker at 4:49 PM on July 30, 2007

Famous black people have lived outside this country for ages, and some still do. It's only very recently that real estate brokers would even sell to them in many areas--even exclusive rich areas like 90210 where other stars lived (and some areas are still segregated no matter how famous or rich you might be). Tina Turner still lives in Europe, along with many many others--usually older stars who became famous or grew up during worse times.

When Nina Simone got big in the 60s she wouldn't have been able to live where and how she wanted, but abroad she could. From Josephine Baker to many writers like Baldwin and others, their only way to live freely was abroad.
posted by amberglow at 5:35 PM on July 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

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