In all of popular, American music history, there is only one Nina Simone. There are many other distinctive voices but there is only one woman who is top ranking. Nina.
First, she is a musician’s musician. Whether blues, bop, or Bach–or for that matter anyone or any other genre or whatever else–Nina was a piano monster.
Second, she is the ultimate vocalist. People crow and shout hosannas for vocalists who they claim could sing the phone book. Well. Nina didn’t need no book. No words. She could moan and make you swoon. Could sing “Jack went up the hill” and make that bad boy come running back down for more.
Don’t believe me. There is recorded evidence. At one particular concert, I was there in the audience. Oblivious to everyone else. All I saw. All I heard. Was Nina.
Third, she was a presence. Lord, could she dance. Make them ballet people sit on their hands and take notes on how to move your body; really move your body. She would just jump up from the piano, saunter from side to side, swivel her hips (slowly, mind you, never in no hurry), stare at you, mesmerize you, make you wish you were a Damballa snake wrapping round her waist. That close. Snuggled up.
I once won a prize for writing about Nina Simone. (If you care to, you can read those words here.)
With or without all due respect, ain’t nobody else even close.
All hail, Nina Simone. All hail, the Goddess of song. All hail! Now and forever more. Nina. Nina. Nina Simone.