Category: Nina Simone

  • Pastoral Scene of the Gallant South

    Content warning: graphic images of racial violence. “Strange Fruit” was written by a longtime English teacher at DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx, Abel Meeropol in 1937 (shown above with his sons Robert and Michael, the biological children of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, whom Abel and his wife adopted after the Rosenbergs’ execution). The […]

  • Selling Cars and Feeling Good

    Pianist, singer, and activist Nina Simone’s 1965 recording of the song “Feeling Good” was used in a fascinating 2018 ad for a Buick model made in Shanghai. The song begins with Simone’s unaccompanied voice, and gradually adds instrumental parts verse by verse, becoming a big-band anthem with a full horn section. The Buick ad uses […]

  • Mood Indigo

    In addition to blues tonality, improvisation, virtuosity, freedom in melodic phrasing, propulsive rhythm, and harmonic complexity, one of the defining characteristic of jazz is the way the standard jazz ensembles — the particular mix of instruments — sound together. This sound is called timbre. The distinctive timbre of early jazz comes from the use of brass […]

  • Birmingham Sunday

    On Sunday, September 15, 1963, the KKK bombed of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. Four young girls on their way to Bible study were killed. The (white) folksinger Richard Fariña wrote a song to commemorate the tragedy, “Birmingham Sunday”: The tune of Fariña’s song is taken from the Scottish folksong “I Loved A […]