Last night I watched an amazing documentary on Netflix streaming video: "What Happened, Miss Simone?" I have always been a huge fan of Nina Simone, having been introduced to her by my good friend Michael Lally when I was about 21 or so. He had the original 1959 album on the Bethlehem label, which featured Mood Indigo, He Needs Me, Little Girl Blue, My Baby Just Cares For Me, Plain Gold Ring, and of course I Loves You Porgy. It was a hard album to find in those days but I finally tracked one down, bought it, and nearly wore it out in the ensuing years. I also saw her live at the Berkeley Community Theater, probably somewhere around 1967 or 1968.
I thought I knew a fair amount about her, but after watching last night's film I realized there was a whole lot I didn't know. I'm not going to spoil it for you but suffice it to say that the film has an almost perfect balance of Nina performing over the years and exposition by way of interviews of her and others, and many excerpts from her private diaries. There has been some criticism based on allowing her abusive ex-husband to give his side when she is now dead, but there is plenty from her side in her interviews and especially in her diaries. Husband shrinks to a pathetic guy in the face of all that, so don''t worry about Nina not "giving her side of the story."