April 28, 2011
I listen to Nina when I’m feeling really down. It’s been this way for about 5 years now and I’m not exactly sure why. Maybe it’s because when I hear the pain inside her voice it makes my own issues seem insignificant. Maybe it’s because her voice is as pure as the church house is supposed to be thus I have come to appreciate the way it washes away my daily sins and past transgressions.
I have never heard a Nina Simone record played on the radio which undoubtedly adds to her mystique. An old girlfriend of mine introduced me to her music some years back and I’ve been in love with Ms. Simone ever since. There’s something about discovering a musician through word of mouth that is extremely empowering. I feel as though I have a personal relationship with Nina. It is as if I have access to a secret that only real music fans know about. When I hear Wild is the Wind I know my baby is singing to me. I know she is striking those piano keys for me. I know she misses me. I know she loves me. I know she is as obsessed with me as I am with her and it is only through the appreciation of timeless art that we are allowed to be in love.
I once tried to share my adoration for Nina Simone with my mother over Sunday breakfast. I asked her whether she listened to Nina when she was younger. She scrunched up her face and replied; “I don’t know. She’s just so ugly.” I immediately changed the topic, feeling let down and oh so hurt. I was also very perplexed, wondering why her looks mattered at all. Of course I think she is beautiful but that’s not the point. The reality is that most Americans would probably side with my mother on that issue. Moreover it strikes me as absurd to know that if Nina were an aspiring artist today she probably wouldn’t be able to get a record deal for that exact reason. Never mind the fact that she was a classically trained pianist, disregard the intense spiritually of her recordings, and her dedication to uplifting oppressed people. Ugly women don’t sell records. Even the most righteous woman I have ever met can’t help but to prove that theory to be correct.
Thank god mama’s baby child has learned to choose his own path over the years, for this is a love that I am willing to fight over. I would disassociate myself from the whole world to be with the woman who reminded me that I am Young Gifted and Black at a time when I felt like a failure. There were moments when I forgot who I was and she sang to me in the middle of the night; “You kiss me and with your kiss my life begins. Daddy you’re Spring to me, all things to me. Don’t you know you’re life itself?” With that I became rejuvenated, refocused, resurrected. Maybe I would have given up a long time ago had I not known that Nina would never give up on me.
So I think of her when I am uninspired and I call on her when everyone else claims to be unavailable and Nina has never let me down because My Baby Just Cares for Me.