Roseanne Barr and Sandra Bernhard share more than just a deep, long-lasting friendship; they share a deep appreciation for Dr. Nina Simone. Both refer to Nina as “Goddess” and this title is not given out arbitrarily. Through their words two things become clear: Roseanne and Sandra have stunningly rich, poetic minds and they truly comprehend the spirit of Nina Simone. No wonder the two are such close friends.
Backlash Blues by Nina Simone – This is my favorite of her political songs. Hearing the passionate judgment & strength of character in the voice that like a Syren re-directs the wayward’s compass- mixed with the prophetic vision calling down the forces of oppression with simple words, reaches thru the labyrinth of my inner ear and splits open all limitation in my Creative Spirit, where nothing ever can remain the same afterward. To Nina Simone, Goddess of Jazz, of Hope, of Resistance to Tyranny, sexism racism, and limitation-well played, Brilliant One!
back in the day in la when i was hanging
out with paul mooney, my mentor and black angel,
he took me to the vine st bar and grill to see
nina simone for the first time, the air was electrified,
the joint was jumping, stylish patrons awaiting the
arrival, the explosion, tempestuous songstress
and mistress of our passion and discontent
dr nina simone.
when she arrived some forty five minutes later
the crowd was on its feet, as she sat down
and launched into “mississippi g-d damn”
it was a call to the mighty on high
reminding us of the fragile nature of
peace, love, compassion and hatred
all rolled into one.
she spoke in many dialects as she had been known to do.
as she did in her remarkable interview “castaways choice”
on kcrw. from her native southern voice to that of africa
she told her stories of classical training of walking for miles
to study with her mentor, of lovers come and gone, of the
shock of her daughter who had joined the army and eventual
acceptance of her in that role. america america when will
you shed your grace on she?
years later when i was preparing the filming of my performance
“without you i’m nothing” john boskovich the director and i wanted
nina to play a classical bach fugue dressed in the garb of the time
we met with her to discuss it but in the end she said no,
we found a very talented pianist to sit in for her, but our hearts
were let down,
my opening number “four women” was our tribute to her.
madcap and over the top as it was, brought the drama
and creative spirit that nina inspired in us both.
one day in paris i was wandering around the musee d’orsay
and there, sitting on a throne of extinct animal skins sat
nina, barely moving like an installation, i went to her and reached out
she looked up and smiled and i hugged her, off we went to cafe angelina
where we ate maroon glace and drank tea and spoke of life
in paris, we wandered a bit eventually parting ways.
this might have been the last time i saw her.
but now and again i would send a missive to her
and reflect fondly and often as i listened to hours
of music and stories of her life.
how can i know the depth of her soul?
i am a devotee so therefore i do.
in unspoken terms.
and i honor that always.