Apr 01 2010

Nina Simone Makes Me Feel Better


At the moment I’m cranky about something. I opened iTunes and planned to listen to something appropriate to my bad mood. When I saw The Best of Nina Simone, I clicked it, and realized that listening to Nina Simone makes me feel better.

Why? In the past it would have been Black Flag or something similarly loud. Now that I’m old(er) that’s not where I go. Between work and kids, I can’t afford to get my anger out my increasing the volume and releasing  the emotion. I need to calm down.

Nina Simone for some reason does that. It also puts things in perspective. How? Listening to Mississippi Goddam is a good reminder that people have had, and still do have, more serious problems than the nonsense that I’m irritated by at the moment. She also has one of those genuinely unique voices and a musical style that cuts through bullshit like a hot knife through a cliché. It’s sort of punk rock without the punk rock. There’s attitude, but not the same kind of attitude. Her piano playing isn’t perfect, but that’s not important. When she sings “Oh Yeah” in Sinnerman, it’s eerie.

The Best of Nina Simone may not be the best Nina Simone album/collection of digital files; that’s just a caveat in case anyone who reads this is, in fact, a more informed fan that I am. If so, please enlighten me. I’ll probably buy that album/collection of digital files as well. The only reason I have this to listen to is because it was on sale at Amazon for $5, and I’m enough of a cheapskate that the word “sale” motivates me.

Going even further back, if I recall correctly, Nina Simone had just died and I asked my mother about her. She said I should listen to her music, specifically Mississippi Goddam. This was way back in the bad old days of file sharing, so I downloaded some random stuff and put it on a CD. The quality ranged from acceptable to crappy but it was good enough that I got the idea that this was good stuff. A few years after that, I got the album/collection of digital files on sale, and here we are.

Two things:

– my intro to Nina Simone came in part from my mother, even though I was fully gone from living under her roof at the time.

– the other day my son told me that he liked music videos more than listening to music, because it was “better.” I was surprised to hear that, and asked, “what about when you just want to listen to something?” He agreed. I don’t think that was a fully formed opinion (my opinions change constantly and I’m almost -ahem- 40), but I felt the need to nip it in the bud somewhat. Heck, he’s not even growing up with MTV. Something to think about.

The Best of Nina Simone at Amazon (no longer on sale, but still worth buying)