Last weekend I watched Netflix’s first original documentary “What Happened Miss Simone?” by director Liz Garbus about the life and art of “the high priestess of soul” Nina Simone.
As an ex-Lindy Hopping lover of jazz, documentary filmmaker, this movie had my name written all over it. Being such a fan of swing and jazz, I was already familiar with popular hits by Nina (like “My Baby Just Cares for Me,” “Feeling Good” and “I Put a Spell On You”) and many others. But my knowledge of her was superficial. I never knew she at one time was on track to be the first African-American woman and break-out star classical pianist. (In fact, she got into singing sort of by accident. It definitely was not her plan). Nor, ashamedly, did I know the huge role she played in the civil rights movement of the 60s. In fact, it was her role in that movement, and the songs she wrote for its cause (like “Mississippi Goddam” and “To Be Young, Gifted and Black”), that contributed to the dip in her fame and career. I won’t spoil what happened after that if you haven’t seen the movie. It’s streaming on Netflix now, so check it out.
Nina sacrificed a lot for a cause she believed in. In one scene of the film she tells an interviewer…
Here comments are a powerful challenge for artists. Whether you’re a filmmaker, photographer, musician, writer, painter, what have you. Do you feel the call to use your art, at some level, to make a difference in this world? To reflect the challenges of the day? There’s no judgment here. Just a question worth pondering.