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Nina Simone: “High Priestess Of Soul”

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"Black is the color of my true love’s

hair. His face so soft and wondrous there. The purest eyes and the strongest

hands. I love the ground on where he stands. I love the ground he stands. Black

is the color of my true love’s hair. Of my true love’s hair. Of my true love’s

hair."

- "Black Is the Color Of My True Love’s

Hair" by Nina Simone

Those were the first lyrics I heard from the

High Priestess of Soul, Ms. Nina Simone. The first time I heard Nina was on

a groundbreaking documentary on Black Gay Men called "Tongues Untied,"

by Emmy Award-winning director, Marlon Riggs.

Hers was a deep vibrato who sang of loving a

black man with strong features and strong hands about loving the ground on where

he stands. Nina sang of love lost, celebrating brown beauty, in ways that made

you love the beauty of our skin.

Simone co-wrote the popular "Young, Gifted,

& Black" with Weldon Irvine, Jr. covered by Aretha Franklin and Donny

Hathaway. Somewhat of a world traveler, Simone settled at various points in

Switzerland, Liberia, Barbados, Britain and France where she lived up until

her passing.

The divine diva sang "Ne Me Quitte Pas,"

so fluidly in French having lived there for a many years. "Black Is the

Color Of My True Love’s Hair" is the first song I heard from Nina Simone.

Legendary jazz singer, song writer, musician

and activist Nina Simone passed away Monday at her home in France at the age

of 70 after her health had diminished greatly. My recollections of her are fond

indeed as she slowly came into my life and I grew to love her.

While I was working at Columbia Records, the

now deceased artist, Jeff Buckley turned me on to her even more. We used to

sit by my desk and talk about Nina Simone, Etta James, Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah

Vaughn.

Jeff Buckley loved Nina Simone so much that he

covered her "Lilac Wine" so beautifully it’s difficult for me to listen

to his interpretation with dry eyes. I remember him those days, those conversations,

and how much he loved Nina.

But someone else loved Nina too. If you listen

to AZ’s "Pieces Of A Man," album, Nina Simone is sampled on two tracks

produced by Goldfinga: the album’s intro and on "Love Is Love."

Here again Nina delivering incantations which

even on a hip-hop record summon you to some far away place – After listening

to AZ’s album, I replaced the cassette tapes Buckley gave me with CD versions

– two of which have become a part of my daily ritual.

In my alarm clock in the morning I rise to the

"Ultimate Nina Simone" and close my business day with "Quiet

Now – Night Song." But other artists ranging from Talib Kweli to dead prez

to Wu-Tang have taken bits and pieces from Nina to create their own compositions.

Her work, "Ultimate Nina Simone" album,

opens up "Images," an acapella celebration of the beauty of a black

women – black women who through their struggle cannot see their beauty. Nina

sings, "She does not know her beauty. She thinks her brown glory, she thinks

her brown body has no glory. If she could dance naked under palm trees and see

her image in the river, she would know, yes she would know."

On the same Ultimate Nina Simone, album is the

classic "Four Women" where Ms. Simone introduces four very different

black women – Aunt Sarah (described with black skin, wooly hair, strong back)

, Saphonia (mulatto, yellow skinned, long hair, product of rape by white father),

Sweet Thing (hair described as fine, inviting hips, mouth like wine – prostitute),

and Peaches (sassy, bitter, frustrated with society). I believe there’s an off-Broadway

play running which interprets Simone’s "Four Women."

On another favorite, "Wild Is the Wind,"

she sings romantically…"Love Me, Love Me, Love me, say you do. Let

me fly away with you. For my love is like the wind. Wild is the wind. Give me

more than one caress. Satisfy this hungriness. Let the wind blow through your

heart. For wild is the wind. You touch me and I hear the sound of mandolins.

You kiss me and with your kiss my life begins," lyrics that you just don’t

hear anymore. Makes you want to fall in love.

Nina Simone was one of the last of the great

divas of song. Like Phyllis Hyman, she sang of loneliness and finding love in

the same note. Her wails, low tones, and delivery echoed from the very depths

of her soul, giving a little black girl permission to love her brownness and

lovers reasons to hold hands.

Her songs were about the seasons of love. Finding

someone and losing them and discovering love again, about his hair, the way

he feels. She paints pictures and textures which swirl around her mesmerizing

vocals. Her rendition of "I Put A Spell On You," may be the most haunting

if not the definitive version.

Nina was the beginning and end of my day and

if you listen closely, you’ll hear Nina Simone’s "Quiet Now – Night Song,"

playing softly in the background when you call 4Sight Media Relations.

"What More Can I Say," Nina…Thank

you for your "Night Song." Good night High Priestess of Soul. Rest

In Peace.

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