Sometimes you are at a loss for words. Then you listen to Nina Simone….and you are still at a loss for words.
Lately, I have binge-listened to Nina Simone. I don’t really like to write over her because it’s so hard to put words to her voice, but I feel the need to say something.
Simone’s voice is complex. Her voice pierces my soul. When I put on one of her records, I may feel whole, but by the time the album makes its final spin, I’m mush. This happens every single time. As exhausting as this sounds, she is still one of my go-to comfort vinyl. Her voice calmly exhausts me.
I could literally write a book over each Nina Simone album I listen to, but for the sake of brevity, I wanted to compile a list of my current favorites. Although it is safe to note, this list may change by the time this article is published.
1. “Mood Indigo” from Little Girl Blue
This song does me in by many artists, but Simone’s upbeat version takes me astray. Instead of the songs usual instrumentation of gloom, it takes on a new feeling with an upbeat tempo.
2. “Papa, Can You Hear Me” from A Single Woman
All music theater and jazz fans know this song from Barbra Streisand and the movie Yentl. Nina Simone’s version is very different, not just in a vocal sense, but an emotional one. Simone didn’t have a close relationship with her father and this song serves as a solemn farewell plea.
3. “The Other Woman” – “Cotton Eyed Joe” from Nina Simone at Carnegie Hall
What I hate about this song is how autobiographical it became for Nina Simone. The song is a tear-jerker, especially with the emotion Simone evokes. What I do love is how well she captures the true essence of this song’s lyrics. She lived it in more ways than one.
4. “Go to Hell” from Silk and Soul
Simone’s mid to late career was mirrored in bluntness. This song, from what I would argue is one of her most iconic studio albums, continues this tradition.
5. “Summertime” Instrumental and Vocal from Nina Simone At Town Hall
When Simone plays the piano, I can feel her fingers hit the keys. Now, this may be my imagination, but this factor stuns me with this song in particular. Her vocals are nonchalant. It sounds like Simone is just saying words that come to mind as she goes through this classic.
What does it mean for an artist or piece of music to pierce your soul? I don’t have the answer. These are just the words that distinctly come to mind every-time I listen to Simone. I’m not sure if a digital file could quite do it like vinyl. It’s gut-wrenching and unexplainable when on this medium. It steals my words. There are layers to our bodies and emotions, yet Nina Simone skips every level to strike the deepest.
This playlist barely touches the brim of what Simone means to me. She expresses the highest highs and the lowest lows that I’ve only experienced with Judy Garland as well. With each listen, she strikes that exact cord within my soul that needs strumming, and I could not be more thankful.
And here I must end because, again, Nina Simone has left me speechless.