Last night, we finally got around to watching what I was afraid would be depressing, the Netflix bio on Nina Simone, the REAL documentary, not the one that just came out with actors.
There was a lot of black and white in her life and I don’t just mean race. Growing up in North Carolina, because her family were church goers, she had just enough access to the church piano that her gift was noticed and nourished.
She was a heated civil rights activist and the music she wrote after the Alabama Church bombings like “Mississippi Goddamn” was banned from the radio. Today, they’d do a deletion or an edit and she’d so much press that her album would have sold like crazy. But that was a different time and she was a black woman in the 50’s 60’s and 70’s.
At one point, after years of abuse and overwork (she was the breadwinner and her ex-cop wifebeater husband her manager) she just broke down. You could see in her eyes that she was disaffected, disconnected…depressed and dead inside.
They took her to Switzerland in the 60’s and put her on Trilofon, an antipsychotic. What interested me about that was back then they knew and warned her about tardive dyskinesia…changes to her gate, neurological twitches, and the impact it would have on her kidneys. But she recovered….it did affect her creativity and improvisation with varying genres of music, she wasn’t as wild with her art. But she was happy again. And she lived to be 70 in the South of France, financially self sufficient and as she put it, ‘free.’