The time has come for me to try to narrow down my appreciation of Nina Simone to a top five. That is not easy but, never being one to back down for a challenge unless it involved doing some actual you know, like work, I'll have a go anyway.
1) Nina Simone is not the most accessible of artists and it makes a big difference how you come to her music. My number one is a song that incites anger at the world she grew up in, and delight at her appreciation of the music she brought together from blues and soul to classical. So, my number one. Mississippi Goddam.
2) Nina Simone is known for a whole load of awesome versions (I won't say covers because she always made them her own). Here she takes on Screaming Jay Hawkins' "I Put a Spell on You".
3) The greatest thing about her, for all her training and drop-down gorgeousness, is her clear eyes. She sees into the future, the one we're living in now and she sees clearly, so very clearly what is needed. "Revolution" baby, revolution.
4) The next one is an education in itself. It should be illegal for a child to reach adulthood without hearing it. This is 'Roots' in less than five minutes. "Four Women". It should really have been my number one, but it makes me cry too hard to type in the others.
5) And of course, she's so Goddam GOOD at good old-fashioned love songs like this one. "Love or Leave Me."
And all that's left to say is how much it hurt to leave out "My Baby Just Cares For Me" and "Sinnerman" and "Ain't Got No - I Got Life" as well as half a hundred other songs. A hundred, two hundred, a thousand years from now, Nina Simone will be remembered and her songs sung beneath other suns long after Elvis is forgotten.