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Nina Simone: Forever Young, Gifted and Black: Songs of Freedom & Spirit

Jim Santella By

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While this compilation combines Nina Simone's mastery of the blues and soul singing, its emphasis remains on what she said. As an active participant in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, she wrote songs and interpreted those of others—songs that helped to raise an awareness of our social ills. We need her music as much today as we did then. Several previously unreleased versions of her classic songs appear on Forever Young, Gifted and Black.

The thirteen-minute interpretation of "Why the King of Love is Dead heard here was performed at an April 7, 1968 concert in Westbury, New York. It was issued in 1967 and again in 1998, but in edited form. Written by bassist Gene Taylor to honor the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, who had been shot to death only three days earlier, the song left its mark far and wide. With this complete rendering, we get all the musical sections and spoken word that combined to introduce the song at the Westbury Music Fair that year.

The same is true for Simone's interpretation of "Mississippi Goddam, which took on new meaning at the time of that April 7 concert. Simone's interpretation of "Turn! Turn! Turn! heard here was made three months earlier than the one that that was released on To Love Somebody. Here, singing alone at the piano with background vocals, she gives us time for reflection.

The selection from the musical Hair was quite popular when released as a single in 1968. This time, we have a slightly different studio version played at a faster tempo, with a horn section added, and with some of the lyrics altered by this unique singer. Nina Simone left her mark for eternity. Bringing back her memory is always a delight. Serious fans will enjoy the new opportunities that this compilation brings.


Track Listing: To Be Young, Gifted and Black; Backlash Blues; I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free; Why the King of Love is Dead; Mississippi Goddam; Revolution; Turn! Turn! Turn!; Ain

Personnel: Nina Simone: vocals, piano; Eric Gale, Everett Barksdale, Rudy Stevenson, Al Schackman, Stuart Scharf, Ernest Calabria, Henry Young, Carl Lynch, Emile Latimer, Tom Smith: guitar; Weldon Irvine, Richard Tee, Samuel Waymon: organ; Ernie Hayes: organ, piano; Paul Griffin: piano; Jerry Jemmott, Gene Taylor, Gene Perla: bass; Buck Clarke: drums; Bernard Purdie: drums, tympani; Don Alias: drums, percussion; Gordon Powell: vibraphone, percussion; Montego Joe, George Devens, Jumma Santos: percussion; The Swordsmen: vocals; others.

Title: Forever Young, Gifted and Black: Songs of Freedom & Spirit | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: RCA Victor


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