Wild Is the Wind

The fierce and uncompromising Nina Simone could never be contained

The U.S. Senate has declared 2003 the Year of the Blues. Seeing as how that aristocratic institution has done more than enough to inspire the blues, it's fitting that Simone, on April 21, at the age of 70, checked out. Her late years, a painful smear bordering on madness and paranoia, offer no redemption for her struggle. Her years adrift in Europe, the Middle East, the Caribbean and Africa brought no solace. Her lovers beat her and cheated on her, and she nearly overdosed on sleeping pills when one more affair curdled. She blasted noisy neighborhood kids with a shotgun, ran over motorcyclists, evaded taxes and alienated close friends and what few allies she had left in the business. She sang until her body gave out; in her exile, few heard.

She never forgave and never forgot. Save your talk of healing and letting go for Oprah and Dr. Phil. Nina Simone's music -- her rage and glory, her talent and freedom, her visions and judgments -- remain ours, dare we listen now without her.

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