Little Girl Blue, Nina Simone
Bethlehem, June 24, 1958
Track Listing: 1. Mood Indigo, 2. Don’t Smoke in Bed, 3. He Needs Me, 4. Little Girl Blue, 5. Love Me or Leave Me, 6. My Baby Just Cares for Me, 7. Good Bait, 8. Plain Gold Ring, 9. You’ll Never Walk Alone, 10. I Loves You Porgy, 11. Central Park Blues
“For all we know
We may never meet again
Before we go
Make this moment live again”
-from “For All We Know” (on the album, Nina Simone and Her Friends)
Imagining a sea of eyes all focussed in the same direction in great anticipation and maybe even a little fear. On stage looking down with the most arresting expression of them all, Nina Simone is scanning the auditorium waiting for a cue that will be made available to her alone. There will be nobody talking. Nobody shuffling about. The right time to begin will somehow announce itself magically. Then and only then can she begin to work her dark magic, wrestling every last ounce of mundane from the night, transforming the air of the hall into a state of blissful connected energy between audience and performer worthy of the music, worthy of the moment.
“There’ll be no one unless that someone is you”
-from “Love Me or Leave Me”
In the face of the awkward, penetrating silence, the audience holds its collective breath. Simone hasn’t begun to play yet. Or has she? As she stares wide-eyed over the confused, nervous onlookers for an unknown duration that feels something like forever, Simone appears unwilling to begin, unwilling to break the trance that is just now materializing, settling over the proceedings like fairy dust.
“Like the ripples, like the ripples in the stream
So baby, love me, love me tonight
Tomorrow was made for some
Oh, but tomorrow
But tomorrow may never, never come”
—from “For All We Know”
Nina Simone is dead. Yet here today, snow gently drifting down and draping icy sidewalks and streets in a beautiful white dream, still she hypnotizes. It started with a snowstorm in February before you awoke to rain in April and all that you can remember in-between is Simone at a piano, her fingers feathering the keys, effortless in their delicacy, playful in swing, mighty in emotion, adept at everything including stealing time.
“Sit there and count the raindrops
Falling on you
It’s time you knew
All you can ever count on
Are the raindrops
That fall on little girl blue”
-from “Little Girl Blue”
Make no mistake, Simone will mess with your head, ready or not. She is a surveyor of souls, poised at any moment to stake her claim. Her hands are like magic wands, commanding spirits to come out from under the black grand piano lid. Her voice plays perfect complement, infusing runs with authoritative emotion summoned from on high. The floodgates open. No match against such intensity, you are carried away in the surge like a rag doll.
“When nighttime comes a’ callin’ on me
I know why I will never be free
I can’t stop these teardrops of mine”
-from “Plain Gold Ring”
A flick of a switch and a fireplace turns on across a cozy living room. So it is with Simone—poof!—snapping you into her rapture the second you press Play. Bose bookshelf speakers cannot contain her. Even in imagination, her scowl penetrates, compelling you to stop all that you are doing so that you are nothing but present in her offering. So begins the time lapse. So begins the journey into blackout.
“For all we know
This might only be a dream”
—from “For All We Know”
The euphoria will end as highs always do. Zapped, conquered, and fulfilled, you can only be grateful and nothing more. But like a good junky, you will want more. You will always crave more. But this moment is over. Simone has exited the stage. Your speakers push silence.
“Don’t look for me”
-from “Don’t Smoke in Bed”
The music has stopped, at least for now. Your time together has been played out on her terms. Revel in the gifts bestowed.
“Stars, they come and go, they come fast or slow
They go like the last light of the sun, all in a blaze
And all you see is glory”
-from “Stars” (on the live album, Let It Be Me)
Revel in the glory.