Day Two in a Several-Day Series Celebrating the Inimitable Artist
Tribute to Nina Simone by Sam Nhlengethwa
Launching into day two of this little series , I figure a little personal history would be appropriate before I proceed. This time last summer Fader Magazine did a tribute issue to Nina (more on that to come), and in the letters section it printed an invitation for readers to submit letters as to what Nina’s music means to them. I ended up writing something for a writing group I briefly participated in, though it was far too late to submit for a chance to win the iPod and stack of CDs. But I’m glad I kept it, as I knew it would come in handy someday:
by Jesse Ataide
I was at a point where I was ready to fall in love. I had been in London for just several weeks—one of the countless American study abroad students wandering around Britain’s capital city, savoring and soaking up all the details and nuances of an unfamiliar world that I was temporarily going to be able to call my home.
As I wandered through endless racks of CDs at the Kensington Library, I kept scraping my brain for the name of an artist that I’d always meant to check out—somebody whose creative vision was to me unknown, new. Suddenly, as I walked by the library’s jazz section, I remembered an obituary written by Norah Jones I had read in some now-forgotten magazine a year before. I left the library that day with the three disc compilation “The Nina Simone Story.”
Soon, Nina’s music established itself as the soundtrack of my new life. Now, several years later, several notes into “My Baby Just Cares for Me” or “Love Me and Leave Me” and I’m reliving that trek I made countless times between my dorm and a local internet café; all it takes is those first few pounding chords of “Ain’t Got No; I Got Life” and images of the Underground flood my mind.
It’s a coincidence worthy only of a bad novel or sappy movie that just a week or two after selecting Nina as the spokesperson of my study abroad experience I found myself huddled in the tiny basement theatre of the Haymarket Odeon watching Richard Linklater’s European fantasy “Before Sunset;” what a shock it was that none other than Nina’s voice was ringing in my ears as the most sublime film experience I ever had faded to a blank black screen.
After playing it endlessly on my iPod, and seeing Before Sunset twice more in the subsequent weeks, “Just in Time” became my love song for London. It’s more than merely a song now—it’s a memento, a memory of a time when I first fell in love with a film, a city…and a songstress.
And that about sums it up—my early attachment to Nina was formed through the marvelous coincidence of almost simultaneously discovering what would become my favorite musician and my favorite film, and doing it during my time studying abroad, which ending up being one of the pivotal experiences of my life (I delved more into this whole situation herehere).
Life has a funny way of working sometimes.