Nina Simone Breaks Fourth Wall, Makes Blogger Cry

Still don’t have a damn idea how to write about race, freedom, trauma. But this came along last evening and got all the way in. I had a hell of a time cracking protects to get it to you, file formats are pretty hard to navigate too, but I claim fair use. And well goddamn but hear the smarts in her voice. I mean here.

My father always promised me
That we would live in France,
(You know you don’t believe that)
We’d go boating on the Seine
And I would learn to dance.

We lived in Ohio then
And he worked in the mines—

I don’t want to sing this song. It’s not for me. My father always promised me that we would be free, but he did not promise me that we would live in France. (Most beautiful laughter.) (Words I can’t make out.)

—How ’bout Brooklyn?

No, my father knew nothing about New York. At all. He promised me that we would live in—peace. And that maybe I can still get. Okay. We have to skip that one.

Really though, hear her. The transcript’s nothing. Don’t know how to put words to my sense of the fullness of life I hear in her voice as it bodies forth.


Addendum a day later. She’s a dharma teacher. That is the liveness I perk to in her words from the wholeness I hear in her person. I don’t mean to diminish the particularity of the fight she was part of – a civil rights struggle I empathize and identify with but cannot have felt as an existential claim on my being as she did. And yet, the clarity of her no, this is not for me, a gift to me in my witless powerlessness.

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I write draw teach blog in and from the Pacific Northwest of America.

5 thoughts on “Nina Simone Breaks Fourth Wall, Makes Blogger Cry”

  1. Ravishingly beautiful, her voice, and its ironies. I always loved this song (written by Judy Collins, I think). And when I listened to it 40 years ago, I knew that no one’s father ever promised that. No one I knew, anyway. Later — “I live in Paris now, my children dance and dream…” My son was in Paris on November 13th and sent me the briefest of messages in the small hours of the 14th to say he was safe. I thought then that there’s a whole complex of lyrics about Paris, fathers, mothers, childhoods, terror.

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    1. Oh my – a son in Paris, on that night, terrifying. Am very glad to know he is all right. And, terrifying times, too, yes. Just, there was something in the cut-through-it-iveness of her voice that gave me hope, no, better to say, gave me power. “This is what it is to stand entirely in who I am.” There’s the power of bombers and then there’s the power of no I’m not going to sing this song. Ah, I still haven’t got any words for it! Well, thank you Theresa, and kindest of wishes to you.

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    1. Hey Theresa. Thanks for this. There’s surely to be writing and talking and stumbling for us all this winter and spring up on that hill. Am trying to feel my way toward what that could look, feel like. Clearest beacon I’ve seen so far is the greatheartedness of artists like her and students like yourself. Do be well and I’ll see you in January!

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