Simone’s long wait has nothing to do with her talent or influence — she is without question one of music’s greatest legends — but rather the Rock Hall’s evolving concept of “rock & roll.” Over time, the Hall has strayed from traditional definitions of the genre to make room for artists of all kinds.
Nine years later, Nina Simone recorded her version and had a minor hit on the R&B charts with it. The song was the lead-off track on an album also titled I Put a Spell On You — an album notable for also including the classic ‘Feeling Good.’
This song inspired John Lennon’s contribution to the Beatles hit ‘Michelle’: “I had been listening to Nina Simone – I think it was ‘I Put A Spell On You’. There was a line in it that went: ‘I love you, I love you.’ That’s what made me think of the middle eight for ‘Michelle’: ‘I love you, I love you, I l-o-ove you.'”
Nina Simone’s 1964 civil rights anthem ‘Mississippi Goddamn’ was released on an album of live recordings from Carnegie Hall. Simone reportedly wrote the song in just an hour, inspired by the deaths of Medgar Evers in Mississippi and the four black children murdered in an Alabama church bombing.
‘Sinnerman’ is one of Nina Simone’s most famous songs. She turned the traditional Negro spiritual, which she had no doubt heard in her mother’s church as a little girl, into a sprawling 10-minute jazz piano epic.
Simone’s version has been sampled in modern rap songs and used in many TV shows and movies, including both the original 1968 Thomas Crown Affair and the 1999 remake. It’s easy to see why. The pulsating rhythm and raw emotional power of the track are irresistible.
For today’s SOTD, I chose Simone’s most famous love song, ‘I Loves You Porgy’ from the Gershwin opera Porgy and Bess. She initially recorded the song for her 1958 debut album, Little Girl Blue, though today’s version is a live performance from 1960.