"Princess Noire" review

“Like her unprocessed voice and Bach-meets-barrelhouse piano style, Nina Simone’s life story is peculiar, beautiful, sometimes off-key and off-color but deeply, disturbingly dramatic.

In the 1960s, the “high priestess of soul” wrote and/or sang some of the most moving anthems of a profound period in American history: “Backlash Blues,” “Mississippi Goddam” and “To Be Young, Gifted and Black.”

She had sought for years to find a place for her unique vision, and she found it alongside her friends Langston Hughes, Lorraine Hansberry, Miriam Makeba and James Baldwin.

Hers was a dignified and formidable presence at many civil rights protests and benefit concerts. Yet all these decades later, sordid tales of disheveled onstage rants, mysterious hospitalizations and other indiscretions have threatened to eclipse her legacy.

In “Princess Noire: The Tumultuous Reign of Nina Simone,” Nadine Cohodas reinscribes into the historical record the musical contributions of a woman with prodigious gifts and sometimes unusual taste.”

Read my full Los Angeles Times review here.

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Filed under Populism, Recommended reading

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