There is a point in her song "Mississippi Goddam," where Nina Simone explains what happens to people who speak truth to power. They are attacked. "People will say it's a communist plot," she sings, running through a list of all the things people say to dismiss accusers and accusations. Simone, a classically trained, juke joint-tested entertainer, debuted "Mississippi Goddam" in 1964 and described it as her first civil rights song. There are lyrical passages — this one in particular — when she might be speaking to 2018 and describing modern digital communications where, veracity notwithstanding, no messenger goes unscathed. With only one natural hit to her name, but a bag full of songs like "Mississippi Goddam," "Young, Gifted and Black," and her cover of Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit," Simone became a major part of the soundtrack of 1960s-era civil rights protests. This week, Simone's ever-relevant voice will be recalled by singer and pianist Destiny Stone in Nina Now, a revue collecting many of the original artist's best known songs.
"I also like 'Sugar in My Bowl'," Stone says, reminding that Simone could turn off the overt political statements and dive head first into jazz and dirty blues.
Stone discovered Simone in college and made immediate connections: "She plays piano; I play piano. She's a songwriter; I'm a songwriter. She was a darker skinned woman; I'm a darker skinned woman." The tribute artist also admired Simone's spirit. "Nina Simone did whatever kinds of songs she wanted to do," Stone says. "Some were straight blues, some were jazzy, some sounded like folk music... She basically sacrificed her career because she said, This is what I want to write and sing about. If I have some sales, cool. But I'm going to do what I want to do."