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Nina Simone: Please Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood

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Nina Simone: Please Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood
(1966 Honeydew Records HD6601)

Original Liner Notes:
by Arnold Jay Smith

Like many before hes, notable Sarah Vaughan, and Carmen McRae, and after, Roberta Flack and Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone was an accompanying piano player. To each there came and inspiration, and enlightening spark that lit the flame that turned full-time pianist to part-time singer to full-time singer to full fledged star. For Nina it was the great contralto Marian Anderson who first showed her the strength words could add to a song.

Nina Simone, born Eunice Wayman, in Tyron, North Carolina, the sixth of eight who all play an instrument, sang a 1949, not especially popular, Irving Berlin tune and made it her own. The tune, You Can Have Him, from the show "Miss Liberty", followed her smash recording of Gershwin's plaintive I Loves You Porgy into the annals of what has come to be known as jazz classics.

The year was 1958 ans Symphony Sid Torin was airing his hoarse tones over the New York airwaves. Nina was a favorite of his and if playlists had been his thing both of those tunes were on it every night. Nina's star soared. As she matured her music took on the textures of her southern birthright becoming tinged with gospel and heavy doses of the blues. Even the pop tunes took on a blue hue each with her personal stamp.

Her voice is rich with deep timbers that few have been able to attain even with practice. To Nina it's natural. She cries without that chocking sound criers like to get; it's more of a feeling than an actuality.

In later years the tunes became African in nature and origin, often becoming a drone due to the repetitive nature or African chants. But she never was accused of being boring, nor can anyone say she performed the same way twice.

Then, when music became "funky," so did she. But it wasn't the funk of electricity such as we know it today. the Simone funk meant earthy; Nina was the voice of the "back to the earth" movement, those chords that elicited the blues -slow, sensual, grinding tempi with space for the audience to add their cries of approval and understanding. Nina had learned it all from the churches and the tents of those who came before her.

In Nina Simone we find the embodiment of soul, not the over-used term that has become generic for anything black deejays want to push. Soul, the Simone way, meant sometimes talking her way through a lyric such as Weldon Irvine's beautiful arrangement of the Simone-Irvine To Be Young, Gifted and Black, an early recording. Soulful Simone is the pleading of Please Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood and the accursed hopelessness of the traditional House of The Risin' Sun on this album.

It is this innate understanding that makes any Simone outing a total experience. She adds herself to her own accompaniment allowing subtle chords and simple melodies do the work while she vocally improvises with the lyrics.

When she gets angry getting it out is the way she treats it. Her words become poetry and she makes other lyricist's words similarly poetic. Standard prose rises to her phrasing. Even the comparative inanity of the "Hair" tune Ain't Go No/I Got Life becomes powerful. She shouts out about hoe she's got her liver and other anatomical parts, but it all subjugates to her love life.

The poets of the sixties (like Bob Dylan and Langston Hughes) were grist for her mill. She infused their metaphors with her realism. She BECAME Dylan and Hughes. Their words and others continue to become hers.

This album was recorded in 1966. The audience you here was present at that year's jazz festival at Montreux, Switzerland. The studio dates were done earlier in Rome on that same tour. Her accompanists include her younger brother, Sam Waymon, now a rock group leader in New York City, and a group of multinationals, from Washington, D.C. (Charles Crosby); Vancouver, British Columbia, (Henry Young) and London, England, (Joe Bagalotts). The conception is a personal, unified wholeness that holds Nina up to a light so we can all get a good look.

Side A:
In The Morning
Ain't Got No/I Got Life
Peace Of Mind
Please Read Me
Who Know Where Time Goes

Side B:
Please Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood
To Love Somebody
House Of The Risin' Sun


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