Unforgettable Live Performances – Nina Simone live at Montreaux Jazz Festival

We start this series by looking at this devastating footage of the legendary pianist and singer Nina Simone taken from the 1976 Montreux Jazz Festival.

Nina Simone is, next to The Beatles, my favorite musical artist. Sadly there’s not a lot on music videos to say about her. So as there is this ‘gap’ for artists who are legends but don´t have a long videography, I have decided to write about favorite live performances by artist who I adore but who don´t have great videos or actually, no music videos at all. This particular performance is not only unforgettable, it is actually a life changing experience. I think I thought about her, and myself, and life and music and love one way and then I saw this and everything stopped and I realized I didn’t know anything about emotion, or loss, or heartbreak or about anything. It is sadness incarnated into song.

Nina Simone “Feelings” (Montreux Jazz Festival)

I fell in love with Nina Simone when I was about 14 years old and she will always be my favorite female performer ever. Since I was about 10 years old I have been a fan of jazz music (thanks to my mother and my father) and Nina is a very important figure for jazz lovers everywhere. I remember when I first heard her version of “I don´t want him” and thinking how someone could transmit that irony and sadness in a song. Masterful.

She was born on February 21, 1933 and died April 21, 2003. Her name was Eunice Kathleen Waymon. She was an American singer, pianist, songwriter, arranger and civil rights activist.

She wanted to be a classical pianist but since there are wiser forces in charge of the Universe, she was denied a scholarship in the Curtis Institute of Music and that would change her musical career. We are all so lucky, that was a true blessing in disguise. Her first hit was her version of ‘I Loves You Porgy’.  She recorder more than 40 albums, and explored gospel, pop, jazz and classical music. In the 60´s she became an activist for equal rights, her music was very influential and important in the movement. Her song ‘Mississippi Goddam’ is her response to the murder of  Medgar Evers and the bombing of a church in Birmingham, Alabama, were 4 black kids were killed.  It was banned in several Southern states, ostensibly because of the word ‘goddam’ in the title.

Previously known as the Festival de Jazz Montreux is a musical festival in Switzerland, held in July in the shoreline of Lake Geneva. It is the second largest annual jazz festival after Canada´s Montreal International Jazz Festival. It was founded in 1967 and is still very relevant today. through out history it has had performances by Miles Davis, Keith Jarrett, Bill Evans, Nina Simone and Ella Fitzgerald.

 

The song was written by Louis Gasté and Morris Albert. It was a hit in 1974 and 1975, and recorded by many artist. In more recent years, it has been parodied and included in “worst songs ever” lists.  During a lecture Julie Andres stated that she considered this song too difficult to sing because it had no meaning behind it. Quite opposite to the “deconstruction” of the song Nina does in this live performance. You know what Nina does to the song? Is like her boyfriend/girlfriend/lover dumped her after the show was over and she came back and did that song as an encore, and while she was singing it, her heart was breaking, right there, in front of all of us to see. She strips the song and has the vulnerability to show her self, her heart broken in front of all of us. Unforgettable!

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2 thoughts on “Unforgettable Live Performances – Nina Simone live at Montreaux Jazz Festival

  1. i think the first time i heard “feelings” i just stumbled upon it on youtube and i started crying , i couldn’t understand how a song could touch me so intensely more so that english is not my mother tongue . she’s one of my favorite artists with ella fitzgerald and i couldn’t thank her more for the fact that she made powerful and amazing music for us to still be amazed

    1. Oh! you are right…she captures the emotion like no one…I also get teary eyed with some of her performances, and Ella´s! Thank you for reading and commenting! 🙂

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