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In 1969 Nina Simone was at the height of her artistic powers. It was the middle of the Civil Rights Movement, and her voice had been inseparable from the cause ever since 1964's masterpiece "Mississippi Goddam." Yet as her political activism rose, her music took a back seat and she became more and more engaged, more aligned with Malcolm X's advocation for revolution rather than Martin Luther King's peaceful resistance arguments, though she had great respect for Dr. King, also. In 1967, two years before this concert, she recorded another track that would become one of her enduring pieces, "I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free," by Billy Taylor, on her album Silk and Soul.
This is the track that closes part one of this concert at the mythical Olympia venue in Paris. It is haunting, beautifully-written and performed with such conviction that Simone speaks across the decades, showing herself to be every bit the High Priestess of Soul, both for today and for all ages. “Backlash Blues” is another noteworthy moment, written by the Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes, who was a personal friend of hers. With soft, rhythmic piano backing, steady drums and fabulous backing singers in Gina Rothchild and Doris Willingham, the set is built around giving Nina the space she needs to deliver her singular and immensely impactful art.
Thursday, February 29, 2024