dimarts, 23 de setembre del 2014

The remainder of her life

The remainder of her life, some twenty-five years, is a tale of escalating misery. At the worst, Nina Simone was found wandering naked in a hotel corridor brandishing a knife; she set her house in France on fire, and once, also in France, she shot a teen-age boy (in the leg, but that may have been poor aim) in a neighbor’s back yard for making too much noise—and for answering her complaints with what she understood as racial insults. Yet the ups of her life could be almost as vertiginous as the downs. In 1987, just a year after she was sent to a hospital in a straitjacket, her charmingly upbeat 1959 recording of “My Baby Just Cares for Me” was chosen by Chanel for its international television ad campaign. Rereleased, the record went gold in France and platinum in England. In 1991, she sold out the Olympia, in Paris, for almost a week.

She toured widely during her final years. In Seattle, in the summer of 2001, she worked a tirade against George W. Bush into “Mississippi Goddam,” and encouraged the audience to “go and do something about that man.” She was already suffering from breast cancer, but it wasn’t the worst illness she had known. She was seen as a relic of the civil-rights era, and on occasion she even led the audience in a wistful sing-along of “We Shall Overcome,” although she did not believe her country had overcome nearly enough. Once she became too sick to perform, she did not return to what she called “the United Snakes of America.” She died in France, in April, 2003; her ashes were scattered in several African countries. The most indelible image of her near the end is as a stooped old lady reacting to the enthusiastic cheers that greeted her with a raised, closed-fisted Black Power salute.
Claudia Roth, The New Yorker. A raised voice.