I love this piece of writing on Nina Simone from my husband’s Red Hand Files, last week. He is referring to Nina Simone’s eighteen-minute version of ‘My Sweet Lord’. Such an epic excursion of ‘transcendent rage’ and Nina at her best! Much love, Susie. X
The great Nina Simone was a living grievance machine—her race, her gender, her misused talents (she wanted to be a classical pianist)—and this rage infused all her work, and is what makes it so multi-layered. Even her most beautiful love songs, which I count as some of the most incandescent works of art ever recorded, were marinated in a sense of resentment and contempt for the workings of the world. It is this exhilarating collision of opposing forces—love and scorn—that makes Nina Simone’s existential and political protestations so compelling.
In this extraordinarily bold statement, Nina Simone stands defiant in the face of spiritual oblivion, and a world (and God) that so readily allows war and senseless carnage to occur. It is a protest song par excellence that serves as a form of transport, a vehicle that takes us on a complex and nuanced journey into transcendent rage. The song itself becomes a forge of fury, where Nina Simone stands conflicted and defiant and, in the final lines, pulls the heavens crashing down around our ears.
Perhaps, this is the voice of protest we need right now—intelligent, questing, transcendent, raging and thrillingly complex.