Saturday, August 14, 2010

Nina Simone

Nina Simone
20" x 6"
oil behind plexiglass, 2010

Nina Simone has been in and out of my top 100 lists since the beginning in 1983. I own ten LPs, two CDs, and eight singles with her recordings, and this year year a whole score of her songs have been listed in various top 10 lists. Through gossip columns of music magazines I've been aware of her troubled mind, the difficult circumstances of her life, and her eccentric character, but what I knew of her was anecdotal at best. An article by Joe Hagan in The 2010 Music Issue of the Believer I've read recently, is different from the scandalous fodder usually associated with Simone, as it is a humanistic character sketch based on a newly discovered 'secret' diary of hers. The ten-page article deals with Simone's private and public life, and her sexual and racial identity. Simone herself is quoted at length through her lyrics and texts, passages from her diary are reproduced and used as illustrations, and a newly published song is tucked on a CD inside the magazine. It's a cover of an Alice Cooper song called I Never Cry, and illustrates an epitaph at the closing of the article, that was also on the last page of Simone's diary: "I learned that my pain, no matter how great, is a private matter (my hell is my own) and I must not tell it to any one else—there are no people who can help me."

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