Nina Simone, The Animals : Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood

All of us want to be loved.

All of us want to be known for who we really are.

All of us want to be understood.

We want to stretch out our hand to someone who says, with feeling, ‘I know, I know, I know exactly what you mean’.

Yet, so  often, we feel, far from being truly understood, we are instead misunderstood.

Living day to day can be so hard.

We make mistakes.

We let ourselves down.

No one alive can always be an angel.

Sometimes it seems all we have to do is worry, worry, worry.

We regret those foolish words so carelessly spoken.

Oh, but at heart, in our soul, to get through another day, to live companionably, we must believe our intentions are good.

Oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood.

Oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood.

 

Nina Simone.

An artist of the first degree.

A musician, singer and performer sharing the stature of Bessie Smith, Billie Holliday and Aretha Franklin.

Not that you can compare her artistry to anyone else.

There has never been anyone like Nina Simone.

A naturally gifted pianist and a singer who made every song she ever sang her own.

She grew up in in pre War South Carolina where strict limits were imposed on the ambitions of young black girls – however talented.

Her originality, her sensitivity and her intuition which were integral to her greatness as an artist made her acutely, painfully, aware of the savage injustice she was heir to as a proud Black Woman and artist in the land of her birth.

So, when Nina Simone sang there was always wounded pain informing the beauty she created.

She brought fierce attention to a song melding the personal and the political with irresistible force.

‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’ is in her reading a plea for personal and political justice and respect from a casualty of wilful misunderstanding – including her misunderstanding of herself.

Listening, you feel suspended in time, swaying in tempo, as Nina Simone with her poised piano and bruised vocal excavates layer after layer of meaning and emotion.

Listening, you hear a blues, you hear a spiritual, you hear echoes of No More Auction Block, you hear echoes of All My Trials, you hear a cry from the heart.

Listening to the way she bites into and stretches the words misunderstood, good and joy for maximum effect.

There is a gravity in her performance of this song which I find emotionally overwhelming.

Nina Simone cuts deep and listening to her is both immensely rewarding and profoundly disturbing for there can be no ignoring the dark truths about humanity and society she so often revealed.

Nina Simone paid a high price in personal terms for the truths she told.

We are all in her debt for the courage and fortitude with which she pursued her vocation and for the many treasures she bequeathed through her records.

I estimate that there are over 400 versions of, ‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’ in the catalogue.

I have listened to twenty or so before writing this Post.

I found merit in the versions by Joe Cocker, Julie Tippets & Brian Auger, Mary J Blige and especially in that of Meshell Ndegeocello.

But, it seemed to me there was only one version that I could, in all conscience, present in the same Post as that of Nina Simone.

The Animals.

The pride of Newcastle.

They were specialists in sourcing songs from the blues tradition and turbo charging them through the lacerating power of Eric Burdon’s vocals and intensity of the arrangements led by Alan Price’s entrancing Organ and Hilton Valentine’s down these mean streets Noir Guitar.

I have read that Bob Dylan jumped out of his car and shouted with amazed delight when he first heard The Animals take on, ‘House Of The Rising Sun’ which they had found on his debut LP.

I would not venture to guess what Nina Simone made of their version of, ‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’ yet we can say that it is an intensely driven, masculine, version that can never be forgotten once heard.

Certainly, Bruce Springsteen, a major Animals devotee, must have had this version in his head as he wrote, ‘Badlands’.

While no one could attempt to match the Nina Simone original The Animals version, a classic in its own right, became the essential template for almost all versions that followed.

We will always be in search of understanding.

We will always be edgy, have regrets and be filled with worry.

While wanting desperately to be understood we will misunderstand others and ourselves.

That’s what it is to be human rather than an angel.

Ah  but, if we could, if we just would pay proper attention to each other and the world around us we might in our journey come to understand that every hair is numbered like every grain of sand.

We might come to live in the land of spices.

We might hear church bells beyond the stars.

We might find something understood.

Sing it Nina.

Notes :

Nina Simone’s original version can be found on her 1964 Album, ‘Broadway, Blues, Ballads’.

The Animals version was released in January 1965 – it was a substantial world wide hit.

The writers of the song were Bennie Benjamin, Horace Ott (who arranged and conducted the Nina Simone version) and Sol Marcus.

 

The Complete Christmas Alphabets + Jimmy Smith : Baby It’s Cold Outside

You really can’t stay.
You gotta go away.
Ah, but Baby it’s Cold outside.
It’s freezing out there.
Look out the window – it’s up to your knees out there!
Take off your coat and that fur hat.
Don’t despair.
Pull up a chair.
You ain’t goin’ nowhere.
Hey! lookie here!
I got just the thing and I don’t mean the Gin.
Two sets of Christmas Alphabets!
Bliss.
Music to warm the heart and soul.
Hey, here’s Jimmy Smith.
He’s bound to melt the ice with his sizzling swing!

 

 

Christmas Alphabet C for

Chuck Berry and The Chieftains with Rickie Lee Jones.

https://wp.me/p4pE0N-1iZ

Christmas Alphabet C for

John Cale & Chet Baker.

https://wp.me/p4pE0N-20m

Christmas Alphabet H for

The Holly & The Ivy sung by Kate Rusby.

https://wp.me/p4pE0N-1iX

Christmas Alphabet H for

Francoise Hardy, Emmylou Harris and Stanley Holloway.

https://wp.me/p4pE0N-20c

Christmas Alphabet R for

Roy Orbison – Pretty Paper.

https://wp.me/p4pE0N-1j1

Christmas Alphabet R for

Rickie Lee Jones and Ramsey Lewis.

https://wp.me/p4pE0N-21p

Christmas Alphabet I for

I’ll Be Home For Christmas sung by Leon Redbone.

https://wp.me/p4pE0N-1j7

Christmas Alphabet T for

Tom Petty & Tom Waits.

https://wp.me/p4pE0N-1uL

Christmas Alphabet M for

Joni Mitchell – River.

https://wp.me/p4pE0N-1rk

Christmas Alphabet M for

Maura O’Connell & Jimmy MacCarthy.

https://wp.me/p4pE0N-1Xv

Christmas Alphabet A for

Asleep At The Wheel – Merry Christmas Y’all.

https://wp.me/p4pE0N-1sb

Christmas Alphabet A for

Amos Milburn & Ahmad Jamal

https://wp.me/p4pE0N-22h

Christmas Alphabet S for

Staple Singers – Go Tell It!

https://wp.me/p4pE0N-1rb

Christmas Alphabet S for

Silent Night sung by The Everley Brothers, Sinead O’Connor & Low.

https://wp.me/p4pE0N-22w

 

The Complete Christmas Cornucopia + Bill Evans – Santa Claus is Coming to Town!

Perhaps you’re a little tired of Turkey sandwiches?

All your presents opened?

It’s cold and rainy outside?

Some people you meet are even a little cross and bickerish?

Well, settle down in your favourite chair with your favourite drink at hand and dive deep into the many treasures contained within The Immortal Jukebox Christmas Cornucopia Series.

If you’ve read ’em all already – award yourself a gold star and read ’em again!

As a bonus treat before the history unfolds here’s my go to Poet of the Piano, Bill Evans, with a glowing version of, ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town’.

Ain’t no one can stay cross and bickerish after listening to Bill!

Christmas Cornucopia Day 1 :

A Painting by Piero della Francesca, Music by Bobby Helms, Mary Chapin Carpenter and Arvo Part and a Poem by John Clare.

https://wp.me/p4pE0N-Gw

Christmas Cornucopia Day 2

A Painting by Fra Angelica, Music by Eartha Kitt, Harry Fontenot, Mahler/Kathleen Ferrier and a Poem by U A Fanthorpe.

https://wp.me/p4pE0N-GX

Christmas Cornucopia Day 3

A Painting by Federico Barocci, Music by Bill Evans, Elvis Presley and Tish Hinojosa and a poem by John Betjeman.

https://wp.me/p4pE0N-Ha

Christmas Cornucopia Day 4

A Painting by Giorgione, Music by Mae McKenna & Mairi Macinnes and Roger Miller. A Poem by Christopher Smart.

https://wp.me/p4pE0N-Hr

Christmas Cornucopia Day 5

A Painting by Taddeo Gaddi, Music by Louis Armstrong & Kay Starr. A Poem by Patric Dickinson.

https://wp.me/p4pE0N-HK

Christmas Cornucopia Day 6

A Painting by Geertgen tot Sint, Music by The Unthank Sisters, The Larks and Hildegard of Bingen sung by Emma Kirkby/Gothic Voices. A Poem by Christina Rossetti.

https://wp.me/p4pE0N-I6

Christmas Cornucopia Day 7

A Painting by Tintoretto, Music by Chris Isaak, John Prine and Gluck sung by Janet Baker. A poem by Richard Middleton.

https://wp.me/p4pE0N-Ir

Christmas Cornucopia Day 8

A Painting by El Greco, Music by The Chieftains with Nanci Griffith, The Trinity Lavra Choir and Dowland played by Julian Bream.

https://wp.me/p4pE0N-IF

Christmas Cornucopia Day 9

A Painting by Peter Paul Rubens, Music by Joe Tex, June Christy and Chopin played by Claudio Arrau. A Poem by Norman Nicholson. 

https://wp.me/p4pE0N-J0

Christmas Cornucopia Day 10

A Painting by Andrei Rublev, Music by Big Joe Turner, Fats Waller and Herbert Howells.

https://wp.me/p4pE0N-JH

Christmas Cornucopia Day 11

A Painting by Duccio, Music by The Voice Squad, Patty Griffin and Emmylou Harris. A poem by Lawrence Sail.

https://wp.me/p4pE0N-JY

 

 

Happy Christmas 2018 from Bob Dylan (x2), Judy Garland & Charles Dickens!

Traditions must be maintained!

An Etching by Rembrandt

A Literary extract from Charles Dickens

Music by Bob Dylan and Judy Garland .

Rembrandt who may be the most searching anatomist of the human heart who has ever lived.

rembrandt

There is such depth of humanity in Rembrandt’s etching of Mother and Christ Child.

The scene glows with immediate and eternal love and intimacy.

So, at last it’s Christmas Eve!

I hope you have enjoyed the music and reflections on the way here.

I have agonised over the music choices in this series and have many years worth stored up for Christmases to come (you have been warned!).

But today’s choices were the first I wrote down and were my inevitable selections for the day before the great Feast.

First, the Keeper of American Song, Bob Dylan, with his inimitable spoken word rendition of Clement Moore’s, ‘The Night Before Christmas’.

It is safe to say that Bob’s pronunciation of the word ‘Mouse’ has never been matched in the history of the dramatic arts!

Of course, in the process of his more than 50 year career Bob has continually been reinventing himself and in so doing has gloriously renewed American culture.

The clip, above comes from his wonderful, ‘Theme Time’ radio show where over a 100 episodes he displayed an encyclopaedic knowledge of twentieth century popular music and a wicked sense of humour.

Bob also recorded for the season at hand the deeply heartfelt, ‘Christmas In The Heart’ album which gets better and more extraordinary with every hearing.

It is clear that Bob, who is well aware that it’s not dark yet (but it’s getting there) is consciously rounding out his career by assuming the mantle of the grand old man of American Music tipping his hat to every tradition (hence the deeply stirring series of CDs where he explores the Great American Songbook).

The only safe thing to say about Bob is that he will have a few surprises for us yet!

Who could have imagined his helter-skelter, how fast can you polka punk?, take on, ‘Must Be Santa’?

Only Bob Dylan!

Only Bob.

Now we turn to Judy Garland with a Christmas song without peer, ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas’.

Her singing on this song seems to me to be almost miraculous.

It’s as if her singing really came from secret chambers of the heart all the rest of us keep under guard.

No wonder she has such a deep impact on us – we know she is expressing a profound truth about the human condition – our need to love and know we are loved.

Judy Garland paid a high price in terms of personal happiness for living her life and art with such an exposed heart and soul but she fulfilled a vocation given to very few and left an indelible mark on her age and will surely do for aeons to come.

Today, not a poem but the concluding passages from, ‘A Christmas Carol’ by the incomparable Charles Dickens – a writer for all seasons and situations.

‘Hallo!’ growled Scrooge, in his accustomed voice, as near as he could feign it. What do you mean by coming here at this time of day?

‘I am very sorry, sir’ said Bob, ‘I am behind my time,’
‘You are?’ repeated Scrooge. ‘Yes. I think you are. Step this way, sir, if you please.’
‘It’s only once a year, sir,’ pleaded Bob, appearing from the Tank. ‘It shall not be repeated. I was making rather merry yesterday, sir.’

‘Now I’ll tell you what my friend, said Scrooge, I am not going to stand that sort of thing any longer. And therefore, he continued, leaping from his stool and giving Bob such a dig in the waistcoat that he staggered back into the Tank again, and therefore I am about to raise your salary!’

Bob trembled and got a little nearer to the ruler. He had a momentary idea of knocking Scrooge down with it, holding him, and calling to the people in the court for help and a strait-waistcoat.

‘A merry Christmas Bob! said Scrooge, with an earnestness that could not be mistaken, as he clapped him on the back. ‘A merrier Christmas, Bob, my good fellow, than I have given you for many a year! I’ll raise your salary, and endeavour to assist your struggling family, and we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon, over a Christmas bowl of smoking bishop, Bob! Make up the fires, and buy another coal-scuttle before you dot another i, Bob Cratchit!’

Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did NOT die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed; and that was quite enough for him.

He had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle, ever afterwards, and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.

May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless us, Every One!

And who am I to do anything other than echo Mr Dickens and Tiny Tim?

So, to all the readers of the Jukebox I wish you a peaceful and joyous feast – however you choose to celebrate it.

God bless us, Every One!

 

Christmas Alphabet S : Silent Night – The Everly Brothers, Sinead O’ Connor & Low

Almost there.

How to prepare?

At this Season wisdom is found not in speech but in silence.

Stand in Awe.

Commune with your own heart.

Be Still.

Hope and wait.

In Silence.

Not in the mountain rending wind.

Not in the earthquake.

Not in the fire.

A still small voice.

To listen you must be silent.

Attend to the great blue bell of silence.

Conversation flourishes when surrounded by silence.

Hidden treasures in silence sealed.

In silence sealed.

Silence of the stars and of the sea.

For the depths of what use is language?

The music is in the silence.

The silence between the notes.

Can you feel the silence?

Don and Phil Everly with The Boys Town Choir of Nebraska.

There is inestimable mystery and depth in the sound of harmonising human voices and few can have sounded those depths as heart wrenchingly as The Everly Brothers.

Can you feel the silence?

Sinead O’Connor.

A singer who takes tender care of silence.

A singer who can, shockingly for us and for herself, cut to the very quick of life.

Can you feel the silence?

From Duluth in the far North, Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker – Low.

In stillness a perfect marriage of sound and silence.

Can you feel the silence?

Notes :

Thanks to –  The King James Bible, Plutarch, Charlotte Bronte, Claude Debussy, Cicero, Edgar Lee Masters and Delmore Schwartz for the inspirations.

Next Post – Christmas Eve! 

Christmas Alphabet ; A for Amos Milburn & Ahmad Jamal

After the last Post’s deep dive into mysticism it’s time to relax and indulge in a little Christmas cheer.

And, who better to provide such cheer than our old Friend and carousing companion, Amos Milburn!

In our house the Christmas wreath adorns the front door.

The tree is decorated and the lights are twinkling.

Underneath the carefully chosen presents are mounting.

The invitations to family and friends have been sent.

We won’t worry about those pesky January bills.

No, we are getting good and ready (I’m practicing my charades mimes!).

We’re gonna dance in the hall and the kitchen and the living room.

We’re gonna finger pop ’til New Years Day.

Because, when all is said and done, Christmas comes but once a year.

Once a year.

Let the good times roll.

Enjoy!

 

And, there will come a moment when all the preparations are complete.

A moment when stillness is all around.

The children are, finally!, asleep.

Somewhere, from a moonlit sky, the snow is falling, hushing the world.

Let it snow.

Ahmad Jamal, a favourite of Miles Davis (and any favourite of Miles’ …), conjures up the scene with his Trio.

Let it snow.

The last Post in the Series will be on the 21st – Don’t Miss It!

Christmas Alphabet : M for Maura O’ Connell & Jimmy MacCarthy

Christmas is a time to allow Mystery its proper place at the centre of our being.

There is no master chart for our lives.

That is life’s beauty and its terror.

The older I get the more I believe that the essence of intellectual and spiritual maturity is to understand that each of us is a Mystery surrounded by the Mystery.

We live catching glimpses, if we would but look, of harmonies within Mysteries.

Mystery is a Gift awaiting acceptance.

In deep valleys and high peaks and on grey suburban streets the door to Mystery waits to be opened.

Reports of the Mystery often come from the daydreamers; the madcaps, the geeks with the alchemist’s stone.

In meditation and madness and holy merriment they can hear the grass grow and the heartbeat of the squirrel.

They bring back reports from the other side of silence.

One such voyager is Jimmy MacCarthy, an Irish songwriter steeped in The Mystery.

His song, ‘Bright Blue Rose’ is an invitation to and an invocation of The Mystery.

And it is a holy thing and it is a precious time.

Forget-me-nots among the snow.

It’s always been and so it goes.

For all of you who would discover.

For all of you who seek to understand.

Strike out on your own path.

You’ll find a very special hand.

One bright blue Rose.

Two thousand years and still it grows.

Life and Death Eternally.

One bright Blue Rose.

One bright Blue Rose.

 

Now, if you want to find a singer who can invoke The Mystery, who can make a song a Holy and precious thing, you need look no further than Maura O’ Connell.

She has a voice that can with spare elegance illuminate the Forget-me-nots among the snow.

She has a voice that can with proper discretion usher us towards the bloom of one bright Blue Rose.

One bright Blue Rose.

Two thousand years and still it grows.

One bright Blue Rose.

The Series continues on 19 and 21 December – Don’t Miss One!