Nina Simone was born about 10 years later than the great jazz / blues / standard singers, but she was undoubtedly their peer. Nina, who died Tuesday at the age of 70, was the last of the great ladies: Billie, Ella, Sarah and the rest, and she took their music into a world transformed by rock, proving by her career that the music was timeless. Her accolades are too numerous to relate here, so we’ll settle for a list of random gems. Her voice on “Sugar In My Bowl,” where the single entendres aren’t enough to hide the vastness and the rawness of her need. Her piano on the cover of “House of the Rising Sun,” which defines rollicking and brings the essense of a bar right to your stereo.
Three of our personal favorites are “Wild is the Wind,” “I’ve Got it Bad,” and “I Loves You Porgy.” The first shows off her amazing range and her vibrato, which gave her voice a beautiful fragility that never allowed you to forget her strength. The second has her stealing the song right from under George’s nose, and suffusing it with her will and a promise — things will be all right, she’s said so. Finally, the Gershwin standard. She sang it slow as a dirge, pouring her love and her sadness into it until you wanted to beg her to stay because you didn’t want to imagine her departure. We still don’t.
Archived article by Erica Stein