Home Culture Watch Nina Simone’s Flawless Tribute to Johann Sebastian Bach on The Ed Sullivan Present (1960)

Watch Nina Simone’s Flawless Tribute to Johann Sebastian Bach on The Ed Sullivan Present (1960)

Watch Nina Simone’s Flawless Tribute to Johann Sebastian Bach on The Ed Sullivan Present (1960)


Some 80 years in the past, in a small North Carolina city, Eunice Waymon, a musically gifted, nine-year-old black lady, started taking piano classes within the dwelling of an exacting Englishwoman named Muriel Mazzanovich.

At first, younger Eunice – the given identify of jazz celebrity Nina Simone – felt intimidated, recalling in her autobiography, I Put a Spell on You, that they “solely performed Bach and he appeared so difficult and totally different:”

In these first classes, it appeared like the one factor she mentioned was, “You need to do it this manner, Eunice. Bach would really like it this manner. Do it once more.” And so I might.

As time went on I understood why Mrs. Mazzanovich solely allowed me to follow Bach and shortly I liked him as a lot as she did. He’s technically good… As soon as I understood Bach’s music I by no means wished to be something apart from a live performance pianist. Bach made me dedicate my life to music.

Her expertise, dedication, and progress have been such that different residents of Tryon, North Carolina pitched in to assist her afford a summer time session at New York Metropolis’s famed Juilliard Faculty, previous to auditioning for Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music.

“I knew I used to be adequate, however (the Curtis Institute) turned me down,” she says within the documentary, What Occurred, Miss Simone? “And it took me about six months to appreciate it was as a result of I used to be Black. I by no means actually received over that jolt of racism on the time.”

And but, she persevered, changing into lively within the Civil Rights motion and utilizing the proceeds from her debut album, Little Woman Blue, to additional her classical coaching.

On September 11, 1960, Simone, who had scored a Prime 20 hit the earlier yr with a canopy of “I Loves You, Porgy” from George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, made her nationwide tv debut on The Ed Sullivan Present.

Performing earlier than an all-white studio viewers, she paid tribute to each her early coaching and the style that may make her a star, imbuing the 1928 jazz customary “Love Me Or Depart Me,” above, with a counterpoint solo within the type of Bach’s Innovations.

It was a ability she had developed throughout a standing piano gig at Atlantic Metropolis’s Midtown Bar and Grill. Its proprietor demanded that she sing in addition to play, and he or she agreed out of necessity, improvising, experimenting, and infrequently permitting herself flights of classical fancy that didn’t go unnoticed by native music aficionados.

She prided herself on bringing a classical musician’s absolute focus to those performances, and anticipated the viewers to abide by an identical code, taking her palms off the keys if a rowdy drunk talked over her, noting that “in the event that they don’t need to hear, I don’t need to play:”

While you play Bach’s music, it’s important to perceive that he’s a mathematician and all of the notes you play add as much as one thing – they make sense. They at all times add as much as climaxes, like ocean waves getting larger and greater till after some time so many waves have gathered you have got an awesome storm. Every notice you play is related to the subsequent notice, and each notice needs to be executed completely or the entire impact is misplaced.

All through her storied profession, she discovered methods to weave Bach-like fugues and different classical references into her work. Witness her 1987 efficiency of “My Child Simply Cares For Me” on the Montreux Jazz Pageant, under.

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– Ayun Halliday is the Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine and writer, most not too long ago, of Artistic, Not Well-known: The Small Potato Manifesto and Artistic, Not Well-known Exercise Ebook. Comply with her @AyunHalliday.



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