I don�t often talk about music influences as there are too many of them. I took an ethnomusicology class at Hampshire once upon a time and just filled out my already existing love for world music. I do occasionally talk about heroes that I have, or as may be more apt, sheroes. Today I’ve been thinking about that. I am moved by people all the time, and I am moved by people’s art, but there really has to be something that catches me for me to really put some effort into talking about the person.
Today my thoughts lie with Nina Simone. I wouldn’t say that I agree with her on everything, but I will say that she is amazing, moving, and full of a toughness that I admire. Her voice is incredible, and I enjoy listening to a lot of her work. I read an interview reposted from 1997 and was really struck by the following:
Is it true that nothing irks you more than being labeled a jazz singer, albeit one of the greatest?
To most white people, jazz means black and jazz means dirt and that’s not what I play. I play black classical music. That’s why I don’t like the term “jazz,” and Duke Ellington didn’t either – it’s a term that’s simply used to identify black people.
I’m happy to hear you have friends, because I recently read a quote of yours that said “I don’t like people that much.” Why’s that?
Because they’re basically undeveloped, stupid, and not very knowledgeable about anything–they don’t think for themselves and they’re not honest.
How would you like to be remembered?
I want to be remembered as a diva from beginning to end who never compromised in what she felt about racism and how the world should be, and who to the end of her days consistently stayed the same. Link
I like seeing people go past their art and having an agenda, because we all do whether we know it or not. I had not thought much about the origins of the word “jazz,” though she has a point on that one. Is jazz a dirty word to you, dear reader?
The area where I disagree with her is that things do change. There wouldn�t be development otherwise and people would stay as stupid as those she has a distaste for, and I hold my own distaste for those folks as well. In that sense I would say that jazz as a word has an entirely different meaning, and there are a whole host of people who are growing up with little to no knowledge of the horrible connotations of the word.
She was a singer, though not first and foremost a singer in her own mind. I imagine pianist, artist, and activist came long before singer in a description for herself. I admire that, since it is so easy to just run with whatever it is that other people call you.