NINA SIMONE LEGACY~MISUNDERSTOOD??


“posted by  Robert J. Carmack   #blues2jazzguy

NINA early 60sSIMONE
early 1960s

With the upcoming production of NINA, a so-called biopic surrounding the life and loves of Nina Simone. There is tremendous opposition to the film from all sides and motives. It certainly has been no secret how I felt about the casting of Zoe Saldana in the starring role.I can’t speak for everybody who objects, but my reasons are not about just the pigmentation of the actress’s skin.  It also goes to the arrogant notion that you could make a valid movie about such a historical and iconic figure without involving the family.

 

NINA 1965NOW NATURAL
Seen in 1965, Nina was among the first to sport a Natural..

Also, making the movie about a love story between an artist who very name commands a certain amount of respect and truth when depicting her contributions. The whole notion of this movie  I’m told, it’s not a “Real” biographical picture. A vehicle with her name, background, artistic position and exploitation of another prominent African-American artist, All to pad the pocketbook of a few individuals.  In my humble opinion, I would have cast Viola Davis since the acting quality is needed more than beauty.(No Disrespect) One can easily ask , Why should you care if Hollywood wants to make money , who are we??  I disagree with the notion, Hollywood can do what it wants. Again my issue is when I was a young lad who left the south and away from Jim Crow in 1960 with my parents teaching us about respect and not to hate even though we were being hated and oppressed.I Experienced many of the same things Nina experienced while growing up in the racist South. I always saw NIna Simone as more than just an entertainer. I saw her liken to an Out-front radical black woman, unafraid of consequences or “what if I can’t get a check anymore??” Unlike today’s stars who are flimsy, uninvolved, unless there is some money or free publicity. She was just like Harry Belafonte, and a few others really into it, Out front, not suffering from Stockholm Syndrome.  By1965 , She was the first male or female entertainer I saw with the natural hair Style.

The first time I heard her sing on record, It was something different about her style and sound when she played the piano. I was only about 12 or 13 years old at the time I began hearing the song, “I Put A Spell On You”, Most of her albums  and concerts in the early years were centered around the blues and folk songs with mix of jazz standards. As we got past 1965, her involvement in the Civil Rights movement expanded.. remember this was not just a photo-op  moment for her, she was right there with the Evers, Kings, and the many nameless people who put their lives on the line. Even as a little girl about to perform a very important concert and audition for a very prestigious music school in Philadelphia. Her parents came all the way from the south to see her and got seats up front when the hall’s staff informed them they had to move to the rear of the theater.. at that moment Little Nina became a woman when she absolutely refused to perform unless her parents were brought back to their seats upfront. She was obliged by management of the theater after the embarrassing moment for that Philadelphian school. Though her performance  during the audition was sublime and quite stellar, they did not accept her into the school. (They tried decades later to make it up to her by offering her an Honorary Doctorate degree, after she was quite famous and near the end of her illustrious career.) She then wound up applying  and enrolling into Julliard school of music in New York. She excelled there until she could no longer afford the high fees. She found work in clubs and the cafes in the Village” and taught students piano to survive in the “Apple”.

I always loved pretty much all of her recordings, but enjoyed her even more whenever I could see her live on stage or at a festival. Her legacy should not be tarnished by this fake movie about a love affair that never took place. The storyline can be plugged into anyone and really doesn’t justify using her namesake and legacy to pump out more garbage movies using a Black icon for leverage to market that brand. It’s not a black movie employing dozens of black people behind and in front of the camera. It’s a damn shame and an insult to Nina Simone family having the actress have to pile on hours of makeup to look black enough to film her as Nina Simone. The same black woman who fought this type of treatment where ever she went. She was not light enough, She was not pretty enough, her lips was too big or nose too wide..she certainly did not suffer from not knowing who she was and where she came from.

 

UNSPECIFIED - 1968: This studio portrait shows American pianist and jazz singer Nina Simone reclining on the floor circa 1968. Simone, whose deep, raspy voice made her a unique jazz figure and later helped chronicle the civil rights movement, died in her sleep on April 21, 2003 of natural causes after a long illness. She was 70.   (Photo by Getty Images)

The problem with today’s movie Producers is, they’re either too young or were not born at all when these types of icons were in their heyday and functioned with and without racist interaction.. IN THEIR HASTE TO GET BUTTS IN THE SEATS, QUALITY CASTING and DIRECTORIAL  EXPERIENCE  be damned! Many of the motivations and behaviors that would be exhibited through such a person as Nina Simone, would require not only great acting, but perhaps a person with similar looks and physical features that maybe have experienced those same experiences while trying “make it” in Hollywood. There are many women that fit that bill I’m sure. Portraying this woman is a beautiful actress who would have been better suited to play Dorothy Dandridge, Diane Carroll, or someone like that.  Why it’s not even believable under this present scenario..BUT, it’s already made now.

Two years ago when I was active on social media websites arguing in the threads about, who I thought should play her. Then, we had only heard rumors about “WHO” was actually chosen as Nina Simone. Names bounced around at the time were Viola Davis, India Arie, and even hip hop’s, Angie Stone just to name a few.. Davis or Arie would have sufficed big time!  I’ll leave it to the masses whether this movie sinks or swims. NINA is scheduled for an April release.

I have a strange feeling I’ll be talking about this again, possibly in May, to measure if “Nina” has the Legs to hang.

Zoe Saldana as NINA
Zoe Saldana as NINA

R&B SOUL GROUP THE WHISPERS NICHOLAS CALDWELL DEAD AT 71


posted by Robert J. Carmack      blues2jazzguy

Nick Caldwell Whispers NOW 2
Nick Caldwell songwriter/composer

One of the Original members of the R&B group,The Whispers has passed at the age of 71. The cause of death are not totally clear as Caldwell was facing  several life threatening  challenges as recently as part of  last year , when he went on the record and wrote an open letter to his public and fans about his bout with Congestive Heart Failure and was optimistic about some alternative medical procedures that would elongate his life.

Some fans were treated toward the last of 2015 with actually seeing Nick as he was called by friends and fans alike perform with the group, The Whispers. In speaking to a close friend today, who had just spoke to Nick as recently as New Years eve, said, “We talked for a longtime on the phone and he gave me the impression he was feeling good and was looking forward to more shows in the near future. No indication that there was  new setbacks. Four days later, Nicholas Caldwell, 71, passes on to the great jam session with Natalie Cole and the rest in the sky.

Always the one all the ladies would whisper about in the audiences , Nick’s outgoing personality  and suave and sophisticated moves on stage set the group apart from their contemporaries, which Nicholas was charged with that responsibilty to keep the group moving and grooving. In addition to choreography, Caldwell also wrote a lot of the Whispers classic songs, centered around love and romance. This writer who saw them from the very beginning of their recording career in 1964 with Dore records as a Teenager. The Whispers were a favorite at the Hunter Hancock (local DJ) Record Hops. Hancock was one of most popular R&B soul DJ in Los Angeles at Radio station KGFJ.

NICK CALDWELL Whispers
Nick from 70s/80s

NIcholas Caldwell was born and bred in Los Angeles, when Walter & Scotty (Twins) met him. They were competing against each other at teen record hops in Watts (now called South Central Los Angeles) and at Jordan High school which he attended with other members , Marcus Huston, The Two twins and the other original member Gordy Harmon was much older, but lived in Watts close to Jordan Downs projects gymnasium.  It served as the early “gig spot” for the budding group The Whispers. Formed in L.A. in the early 1960s, the Whispers certainly took a “slow and steady” career course in which they have quietly become one of the most successful modern soul groups. Consisting of twin brothers Walter and Wallace (Scotty) Scott, Nicholas Caldwell, Marcus Hutson and Leaveil Degree (who replaced departing member Gordy Harmon in 1973), the Whispers first recorded for local LA label Dore Records, hitting the pop and R&B charts with “Seems Like I Gotta Do Wrong” in 1970.

Nick with Whispers 3 NOWThey continued to be a mid level charting act throughout the 70s on the Don Cornelius/Dick Griffey “Soul Train” label but gained momentum toward the end of the decade when Griffey, who was their manager, created his own SOLAR label and worked with the group on their SOLAR debut album Headlights, which scored a moderate with “Olivia.”

 

 

 

 

 

STEPHANIE SPRUILL AT CLIVE DAVIS THEATER: 4 YOUR GRAMMY CONSIDERATION


*by Robert J. Carmack  #blues2jazzguy  #itsajazzday “Stephanie Spruill is a great performer and she reminds me of Eartha Kitt and Sarah Vaughan.”Barry Gordy-Founder Motown ************************************************************************************** “Stephanie Spruill… Read more “STEPHANIE SPRUILL AT CLIVE DAVIS THEATER: 4 YOUR GRAMMY CONSIDERATION”