Ms. Nina Simone
I come to you at the end of a full, satisfying weekend spent with friends and family, attempting to avoid (or at least endure) the heat and get some writing (and podcasting done). I even got in some (early) Saturday morning digging in with my man DJ Prestige (followed of course by eggs, toast and coffee).
I’ll begin with a note that my garage/psyche blog Iron Leg is celebrating its one-year anniversary with a two-part podcast, the first half of which is up today. If you are in any way a fan of that kind of stuff you might want to saunter on over there (via the interwebs, natch) and check it out.
I’ve also updated my reading blog Paperback Rider with two new reviews, so check that out as well if you are so inclined.
The tune I bring you today comes from a 45 that turned up recently on a friend’s set-sale list and was so intriguing that I had to grab it.
Good thing too, because it turned out to be well worth the effort.
Nina Simone is one of the great enigmas of modern music. With her fierce, driven art she inhabited a grey area that started in jazz and intersected with the blues, pop, soul and funk (sometime all at once). Though some might think it foolish to attempt to categorize her at all, I’d place her as a link between the old-school of song interpreting vocalists (though she was light years ahead and far deeper than most of her contemporaries there) and the modern singer-songwriter movement.
She was an adventurous and uncompromising artist, often working outside of her stylistic comfort zone, taking pop material and giving it more respect than most would.
To most folks, the Bee Gees are the white suited, blow-dried goons that verily became the personification of disco in the mid-70’s. But to psyche-heads, they were the group that created some of the finest, most sophisticated (and enduring) music of the mid-to-late 60’s. Their first three ATCO LPs, ‘Bee Gees First’, ‘Horizontal’ and ‘Idea’ are all dreadfully underappreciated.
‘Bee Gees First’ – pretty much a Sgt Pepper-ish enterprise – was the album that featured the original version of the perennial classic ‘To Love Somebody’ which was eventually recorded by singers of soul, country, rock and pop and surely lined Barry and Robin Gibb’s pockets with gold ingots. Interestingly enough, the Gibbs wrote that song with Otis Redding in mind, though the master died before hearing it.
While no one (sane) would describe either of the brothers (who shared lead vocal duties with their third sibling Maurice) as “soul” singers, their material, when handled by those deserving of that title, shone brightly.
Such is the case with Nina Simone’s cover of ‘I Can’t See Nobody’ – the flipside of her own cover of ‘To Love Somebody’ and another song that appeared on ‘Bee Gees 1st’ – takes the pathos of the original version to another, more adult level. Appearing on Simone’s 1969 LP ‘To Love Somebody’ alongside covers of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Suzanne’ and no less than three Bob Dylan tunes, ‘I Can’t See Nobody’, with it’s dark, obsessive lyric is in many ways a different song in her hands. Whether this is because we’re inclined to view obsessive love differently depending on the sex of the obsessed, or simply because of the emotional richness of her voice, I can’t say. I will however suggest that if you haven’t heard the original, that you seek it out.
That said, I hope you dig the tune, and I’ll be back mid-week with something cool.