Tag Archives: nina simone

Results: Magic

Jeff Blake

Nina Simone – I Put A Spell On You

So much magic in my life.  As much as I wanted to shout out to Mick Smiley’s “I believe it’s magic” song/remix from the Ghostbusters movie (the one where Sigourney Weaver is flashing her pecs at the camera, and growls out a yell that shatters her building’s facade).  His incomprehensible lyrics and lethargic melody only added power to his jam.

But for power, how can I not shout out to Nina Simone?  Although she’s only covering Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, she makes this song hers by giving herself to it completely.  It’s not a happy song–it’s full of desperation, pain, confusion, and ought to scare the shit out of whomever it’s directed to.  I can’t stand versions of this song sung as a happy, romantic theme.  She’s belting out her pain; lady’s in trouble, and it shows.

But then that’s when Nina Simone is best: when she’s singing from desperation, pain, and confusion (for example, on Four Women: “My name is PEEEEEAAAAAACHEEEESS!”).  Just like in real life, if you believe in magic and you want to be taken seriously, you have a difficult line to walk and must avoid falling into the ridiculous–and I think Nina Simone walks that line, partly by sounding so vulnerable and earnest.  As a contrast, listen to Marilyn Manson’s version: he comes awfully close to succeeding, but at the end you can’t take him seriously because he’s all sound and fury, but no power–just one more angry white man shrieking out how depraved he is.  Yawn.

But just to keep everything ridiculous, I’m submitting a video of Nina Simone put to Alan Rickman as Severus Snape, with what appear to be Portuguese translations of the lyrics.  How magical!

Megan Costello

America – You Can Do Magic

America proves the existence of magic for me.  Although it is black magic that brought Sarah Palin to the presidential campaign, I am not talking about the United States of America.  No, I’m talking about the soft-rockers who hypnotize me with their jams.

Affectionately known to me as the Shoop-Ding Song, the 1982 hit You Can Do Magic is not only about magic, it IS magical- first at 40 seconds into the song, and then again at 50.  Shoop-ding! After the first two shoop-dings have got me hooked in the chorus, I just let the magic rush all over me in the warm cocoon of easy listening.

Shoop-ding is the sound of magic happening.  God bless America and their soft rock tribute to the best sound effect ever.

Himanshu Mhatre


Had Himanshu managed to submit an entry, it might have gone a little something like this:

Accio Internet!



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Filed under Himanshu Mhatre, Jeff Blake, Megan Costello, Response

Results: Civil Rights Movement

Sohrob Kazerounian

Nina Simone – Mississippi Goddam

“This is a showtune but the show hasn’t been written for it yet…” Far from from a showtune, this protest song was released as part of a collection of live recordings from Carnegie Hall made in 1964 and marked the beginning of Simone’s explicit incorporation of civil rights themes into her music (which had already contained political undertones). The song, a response to the killing of Medgar Evans (a civil rights activist) in Mississippi and the church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama which left 4 schoolgirls dead, captures Simone’s frustrations with calls for the civil rights movement to ‘take it slow’.

But that’s just the trouble

“do it slow”
“do it slow”
Mass participation
“do it slow”
“do it slow”
Do things gradually
“do it slow”
But bring more tragedy
“do it slow”
Why don’t you see it
Why don’t you feel it
I don’t know
I don’t know

You don’t have to live next to me
Just give me my equality
Everybody knows about Mississippi
Everybody knows about Alabama
Everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam

Simone went on to perform the song the next year at the end of the third march from Selma to Montgomery, a five day, 54 mile march to demand that then Governor George Wallace provide protection to Selma’s black population – who were prevented from registering to vote through police intimidation. The day after Simone and others performed, the number of marchers grew to 25,000 – and a speech was given by Martin Luther King Jr. by the State Captiol building. Five months later, the Voting Rights act of 1965 would be passed. Aside from Simone’s status as a civil rights icon, her music is often cited by many musicians as a primary influence on their own work.

Rob Law

Dead Kennedys – I am the Owl

Wiretapping has come up in the news a lot lately, and I just wanted to try and calm everyone down. It’s no big deal!

Disabuse yourself of the notion that wiretaps will ever be used against you or anything you stand for. Nobody peaceful is going to have their communications monitored or their well-being threatened! Hell, it’s not like Martin Luther King, Jr. was wiretapped and harassed for… Oh, that’s right. He was!

Sexual indiscretions as blackmail fodder? Planted letters from supposed civil rights activists demanding King’s suicide? Saint Bobby Kennedy as the authorizing attorney general? What a story!

The Dead Kennedys’ “I am the Owl” was written only a few years after the Church Committee released its report outlining the FBI’s and CIA’s abuses of power. These included COINTELPRO, the counterintelligence program under which King was harassed, as well as MKULTRA, which included dosing unknowing targets with LSD. While I’m certainly a proponent of responsible drug use, I wouldn’t want to be turned loose tripping on the freeway as happens to one of the song’s characters.

But hey, don’t worry! That sort of thing couldn’t possibly happen again!

Natty Raymond

Staple Sisters – When Will We Be Paid?

When will be paid?
That is the question being asked by the Staple Singers, arguably the premier R&B group of the Civil Rights Movement. What is so powerful, so moving about the Staple Singers (besides the fact that their elderly father, Roebuck “Pop” Staple, played bass) is that their music was more than simple protest songs. In tunes such as “Long March to DC” and “The Challenge,” the Family Staple created inspirational and supremely optimistic anthems that challenged the United States to transcend the worst of its history while simultaneously facing it.
It would have been easy for the Staple Singers to simply have been just another angry voice in the fist-pumping chorus of “Black Power” bands calling for the easy tropes of “revolution” and “revenge,” themes which typified the Blaxploitation period in funk and soul music. Instead, the Staple Singers were different. They invited the entire nation to join in that “Long March to DC” and they challenged all of us to move beyond the sins of the past towards a shared future.
However, their songs, especially this week’s special feature, “When Will Be Paid,” speak poignantly of the necessity of justice as a prerequisite to equity. It is a lesson that this country, this world is still struggling to learn.

Soylent Green is made out of people? Who gives a shit! Now you can…


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Filed under Natty Raymond, Response, Rob Law, Sohrob Kazerounian