First Listen: Ledisi shines on Nina Simone tribute

(July 24, 2021) In a recent interview with the New York Times, Ledisi talks about how the music of Nina Simone pulled her from the brink. Ledisi told Times reporter Salamishah Tillet that she was sitting on a porch in Oakland during a particularly rough period in her life in 2003. Ledisi felt stalled both professionally and personally and there didn’t appear to be any way out. Ledisi said she contemplated suicide and then she heard Simone’s song “Trouble in Mind,” and the songs lyrics: “Trouble in mind, I’m blue/But I won’t be blue always/’Cause the sun is gonna shine/In my backdoor some day,” became a healing balm.

(July 24, 2021) In a recent interview with the New York Times, Ledisi talks about how the music of Nina Simone pulled her from the brink. Ledisi told Times reporter Salamishah Tillet that she was sitting on a porch in Oakland during a particularly rough period in her life in 2003. Ledisi felt stalled both professionally and personally and there didn’t appear to be any way out. Ledisi said she contemplated suicide and then she heard Simone’s song “Trouble in Mind,” and the songs lyrics: “Trouble in mind, I’m blue/But I won’t be blue always/’Cause the sun is gonna shine/In my backdoor some day,” became a healing balm.

Many people have found solace, empowerment and inspiration in the music of Nina Simone. However, few of those people have Ledisi’s chops or her Grammy winning bona fides. So when the New Orleans born Oakland raised daughter of a legendary musical family decides to take on the Nina Simone songbook, you kind of know that you’re in for something special.

We get an earful of a modern day legend covering one of her musical and political sheroes with Ledisi’s take on the Simone classic “Feeling Good.” This is an oft-covered song that has been arranged in a variety of ways. For example, Gregory Porter did an a cappella version on his debut album.

Ledisi opts to be true to Simone’s brassy, swinging and sensual arrangement featured on pianist and vocalist’s 1965 album “I Put a Spell On You.” Still, the woman with a powerhouse of a voice manages to make this song her own. Ledisi’s voice has always been her not so secret weapon. And she truly lets loose on this track. Backed by the Metropole Orkest, Ledisi proves that she is more than able to match a full orchestra.

Ledisi and Simone have been on a spiritual and artistic journey, so a tribute record is the natural conclusion. Ledisi has been performing Simone songs since at least 2017 when she incorporated songs from Simone into her concert with the National Symphony Orchestra. In December, she performed tunes from Simone’s catalog during her first television special on PBS, according to the Times.

Ledisi Sings Nina is a momentous pairing of an artist at her creative peak with a legendary performer whose music lives on, nearly two decades after her passing. Check out Ledisi’s take on “Feeling Good” below and then enjoy the full stream of Ledisi Sings Nina.

By Howard Dukes

 

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