There is a big resurgence of Nina Simone right now. In case you were just hatched, Nina Simone was an American born, classically trained pianist, singer, songwriter, arranger and political activist. I was aware of Nina but did not know of her history nor of her struggles. I enjoyed her music but never delved deep into the soul and feeling of her works…and I feel shamed for not doing so. As a music lover, as a person and as an American, Nina’s story should be familiar with us all.
She was born Eunice Waymon in North Carolina and began playing piano at the age of three. She came from a poor family of eight siblings. Eunice faced racism very early in her lifetime having been denied a scholarship at a prestigious music school because of race. This led to a life long battle and involvement in the civil rights movement. Her story is a fascinating chronicle of the times and pressures and events that would ultimately break her heart and spirit. Nina was diagnosed as being bipolar and was often agitated easily during her performance and would often scold the crowd. I am not going to get into the minutiae of her life and career, please do some research, but I have to give a shout out to the amazing documentary of Nina entitled “What Happened, Miss Simone” by Liz Garbus, that is currently showing on Netflix. I am totally enthralled by it. It has moved me very much and I have watched it three times and will continue to watch it a few more times. I am not sure what I am looking for in this film but I feel some sort of kinship or connection with her, maybe as a human, maybe as a misunderstood person or maybe being bipolar isn’t too far away from my mental state. I mean this in all seriousness. I usually write these articles in my beat style sense of humor and self-styled deprecation but I feel Miss Simone needs, no, demands respect even in a writing by a person that never met her nor will ever have the opportunity to leave a mark upon this world as much as she has made. We have made some big strides since the 60’s as far as civil rights go…but then again we haven’t. It’s a sad state of human affairs that we can look around and still see remnants from a bygone era that may continue to haunt this country forever… and hate still flows violently from people just because of pure ignorance. Hate begats hatred. Nina Simone was angry. She had every right to be, “Mississippi Goddam”. She is now on another plane, an orb, just like she claimed in the film. I wish you peace Miss Simone. I hope to meet you when I achieve the next level. RIP
I took this portrait of Nina from a still photo in the Liz Garbus documentary. This was done in oil. I chose to put Nina on black canvas because she was such a strong voice in the black culture and will always be associated with such. Her portrait is done in an angelic white with a hint of blues illuminating her hair. I used shapes in the background (acrylic) from a stage show that was filmed later in her career. The font was my interpretation of a royal African style that is done in a gold and bronze in tribute to her regal ness.
I truly recommend this movie (and others) and for readers to do their own listening research on this artist…for people like Nina Simone come along only once in our lifetime and us folks have to start recognizing pure genius before it is too late for us and for especially them. The Big Huerta wishes you all peace.
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