Outside in the freightyards,
the trains rattle and moan
It’s just Hank Williams talking,
to Nina Simone…(From the song Nina Simone)
San Cristobal de las Casas. Deep in the Mexican Yucatan. I’m wandering through the colonial backstreets and dark Indian allleys, when I hear Nina Simone’s voice filtering out of the window of a used bookstore. Vinyl. And old tube-driven record player. She was singing Dylan’s „Just Like a Woman.“ A transforming moment. I finally HEAR Nina’s true voice. A folksinger; that’s all she ever claimed to be. Reminded me of Morracco when I heard Dylan’s „Love is Just a Four Letter Word,“ with the lines about storefront windows and Gypsy Cafes. Those moments when you hear through to the poetics of the song. Down into the bedrock, where the iron water seeps through the veins and soaks into the words. Cante hondo. Nina Simone.
A few days ago we were walking along a canal in Amsterdam and saw a barge with a crane and steam shovel dredging out mud and trash from the canal. Out of the dark waters emerged broken and twisted bicycles, tree limbs, plastic bags and chocolate colored silt. So like the archeology of a song; dissecting a Nina Simone song, where the core is blood, mud, and twisted bicyles dripping with the silt of trainwrecked relationships. She was an angry woman, but contrary to journalistic belief, it didn’t all have to do with her blackness or her womanliness….it was a fathomless spiritual anger that strangled and confused her, and allowed her to inject the riveting, jagged noir nuances into the music. Blues in real time. Take it or leave it. She sang everything from pop to blues, country to folk, jazz to blues... and soul and French dance hall songs. She sang whatever she damn well pleased with a spit-in-your eye attitude that masked a very warm hearted, damaged human. Her anger was no different than Van Morrison’s. The eternal search for the reason people destroy each other. As the painter Francis Bacon said: „relationships are all about two people pulling each other apart.“ Nina sang the soundtrack and I heard it and danced to it as I walked through my lonely alley afternoons in the Mexican Yucatan. Years ago.
(Song number three in a series of twelve from the next record « Blood and Candlesmoke » )