chrono about
The Nina Simone Database

Live in '65 & '68


Reelin' in the Years 2.119014 (2008 US)

Tracks sorted by number (sort by session or by title)
 1 [5:27] Brown Baby   Oscar Brown jr

 2 [5:23] Four Women   Nina Simone

 3 [6:57] The Ballad of Hollis Brown   Bob Dylan

 4 [9:31] Tomorrow Is My Turn / Images   (medley)

 5 [6:34] Go Limp   Alex Comfort, Nina Simone

 6 [5:28] Mississippi Goddam   Nina Simone

 7 [3:24] Go to Hell   Morris Bailey jr

 8 [4:47] Ain't Got No / I Got Life   Gal MacDermot, James Rado, Gerome Ragni

 9 [3:33] Backlash Blues   Langston Hughes, Nina Simone

 10 [3:30] I Put a Spell on You   Screamin' Jay Hawkins, Slotkin

 11 [1:42] Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood   Bennie Benjamin, Gloria Caldwell, Sol Marcus

 12 [2:48] Why? (The King of Love Is Dead)   Gene Taylor

by Rob Bowman

Nina Simone was one of the great iconoclasts of American music. Born poor and black in the southern United States, she had a lifelong love of J.S. Bach. Raised in the church playing gospel and steeped in the blues, for the first many years of her career, her repertoire was heavily rooted in Tin Pan Alley standards. Filed in most record stores under the heading jazz, she detested the term, feeling it was a racist way of classifying black performers. A diva to the nth degree, renowned for reducing promoters, record company personnel and journalists to tears, she had a playful and ingratiating sense of humor. Perhaps best known for the scathing protest songs she wrote and performed between 1963 and 1970, outside of those years, she rarely performed this material. An individualist of the highest order, Dr. Nina Simone was capable of doing just about anything once she took the stage. Fortunately, a number of her performances during the 1960s were filmed for broadcast on European television. The DVD you presently hold in your hands contains two of the best of those performances: one from December 1965 and the other from September 1968.


In September 1968, England’s Granada TV broadcast the second concert featured on this DVD. This time, Simone had a new band including her younger brother, Sam Waymon, on organ, tambourine and background vocals. The version of “Backlash Blues” shot by Granada dispenses with the harmonica and guitar fills heard on the LP version and instead brings Simone’s piano to the fore and adds a serious dollop of funk to the stately rhythm. The physicality of Simone’s performance is a joy to watch, her body undulating as she lays out a bass line that is slightly reminiscent of Albert King’s “Born Under A Bad Sign” juxtaposed with funked-up right hand piano chords. After her spartan piano solo and a brief groove section featuring piano and drums, Simone sings a new verse (that is also heard in a live version issued by RCA on the ‘Nuff Said! LP recorded five months earlier) about how Langston Hughes always encouraged her to “keep on working until they open up the door” at which point she was to tell her audiences exactly where it was at. Living up to Hughes’ admonition, the performance ends with Simone leaping up from the piano in rapturous catharsis.

The 1968 concert opens with “Go To Hell,” a jazzy blues song included on Simone’s second RCA LP, Silk And Soul, issued in the fall of 1967, which segues immediately into Simone’s cover of “Ain’t Got No/I Got Life” from the Broadway musical Hair. The former was written by Morris Bailey, brother of jazz organist Jimmy Smith’s drummer Donald Bailey and a pianist in his own right, and in this performance features a brilliant coda. Within a few weeks of this concert, “Ain’t Got No/I Got Life” would be a #2 hit for Simone in the U.K. A few months later it stalled at #94 on Billboard’s U.S. pop chart. In Simone’s hands, what had been a corny piece of fluff on the Hair soundtrack became a soulful assertion of the will to overcome poverty and destitution. If proof were ever needed that meaning in music is ultimately determined in performance, Simone’s version of “Ain’t Got No/I Got Life” would suffice. Her brother, Sam Waymon, doubles her vocals for the triumphant chorus of “I Got Life” at the end of the song.