Saturday, February 16, 2008

Nina Simone - A Memory for African American Heritage Month

When I was a kid back in the day African American Heritage Month was called Black History Week. You spent that week learning about slavery, about George Washington Carver, Harriet Tubman and Sojurner Truth. Basically it was every dead black person who did something good and that took about a week. Then the next week you relearned everything that contradicted the week before.

This was also the time of the Nation of Islam whose participants went around the neighborhood selling bean pies, The Call, and dispensed knowledge at each and every opportunity. It was a time when folks in my neighborhood would read The Philadelphia Tribune, Jet, Ebony and other black publications to get the true scoop on who we were and were we came from.

The musical artists at the time did not just rock beats or pine in the sea of love. Some of them wrested with styles of communication that was lyrical and a heart ache away from madness. Let no one fool you. The sixties were a form of madness.

I would hear Nina Simon on the radio but not very often. Her voice was powerful. She could mess you up quick. Even if she was singing a tune like "I Put A Spell On You" she could discombobulate you when you least expect it. Truth be told I was a Funkateer long before the Age of Funkenstein so it would have been a hard sell to get me to listen.

I did not know until I started researching her background information that she had been banned from New York and Philadelphia radio station for her song 4 Women because of the implications of acknowledging variations of skin color and the reason therefore, as and by.

This is a 29 minute documentary of Nina recorded in 1969. It is extraordinary in that we get a glimpse of her process of performing, her fears but most of all her talent. This is but a brief introduction.

But I don't want to leave you with the story of a talent performer that has passed on. Because in addition to her many musical gifts she left us with one more. Here name is Lisa Simone Kelly, her daughter. Her daughter can sing. She has a new album about to come out but you can take a listen and hear for yourself, you can visit her website.

"And the beat goes on, and just like my love, ever lasting."
The Whispers

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