Ain't Got No…I've Got Life

By Sean Carroll | January 23, 2008 7:18 pm

Every day is better with a little Nina Simone.

Simone affected an imperturbable demeanor onstage, but she had an eventful life. She gave her first classical piano recital at age ten and later trained at Julliard, but started playing jazz and blues to earn a living at a time when black women pianists were not highly sought-after in the world of classical music. In the 1960’s she became active in the civil rights movement, marching with Martin Luther King and recording protest songs such as Mississippi Goddam. Her struggles with bipolar disorder were kept secret until after her death in 2003. Her music brought together influences from jazz, classical, and soul. And she could rock out when the occasion required.

  • Cœlispex

    Nina Simone is such a wonderful artist. She has a one of a kind voice and a very special energy that she transmits in her performances.

  • Supernova

    Thanks, Sean — I wasn’t familiar with Nina Simone, but will seek out more about her. Her voice is terrifically rich; I can hear her influence in the songs of Tracy Chapman and other contemporary singers. The video was cool for the closeup shots of her hands on the piano and of the subtle expressions on her face (not to mention those mesmerizing earrings!).

  • Pablo

    Please, please tell me this song is available in some of Simon’s recording.

  • Ed Matheson

    Yes, she was incomparable. Been listening to her since the ’60’s, from her earlier recordings through those made while she was living in Europe. She had such a rich, full and incredible voice.

  • Pineyman

    Thank you. All I knew her for was “Please Don’t let me be Misunderstood”. I need to find more of her.

  • Sean

    Pablo, the song is definitely available. Nina Simone: Anthology is a great collection to start with.

  • smm

    I’ve heard of her, but never listened before. Wow, that song is poetry!

  • chemicalscum

    I a remember seeing her live in London back in about 1967. She played Klook’s Kleek a small blues club in a large room on top of a pub. A great evening and a very moving performance. I can still remember it.

  • Daniel E. Friedman

    This was an entertaining treat from an artist that I have never heard of. Thanks for the video footage.

  • hegemon359

    Nina’s “Strange Fruit” is the song sung with the most feeling in the history of music

  • Josh

    Sean, thanks for posting this. This reminds us not only of Simone’s greatness, but also that the musical Hair (from where Simone adapted “Ain’t Got No), was, for all the kitsch cultural memories it invokes, truly daring in it’s discussion of race, class, sex, and youth.

  • Kredit

    Yes, she was incomparable. Been listening to her since the ’60’s, from her earlier recordings through those made while she was living in Europe. She had such a rich, full and incredible voice.

  • Kredit

    Very good story. Thanks. She had such a rich, full and incredible voice.

  • MedallionOfFerret

    my favorite Simone aural gift, from 1966:

  • Timothy J. Carroll

    Awesome, we love us some Nina Simone!

    We threw up a link to you site on our Hypertext Bazaar – 01.29.08

    All the best!


    the memeticians


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Cosmic Variance

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About Sean Carroll

Sean Carroll is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. His research interests include theoretical aspects of cosmology, field theory, and gravitation. His most recent book is The Particle at the End of the Universe, about the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs boson. Here are some of his favorite blog posts, home page, and email: carroll [at] .


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