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The whitest rap battle in history—on ‘Jeopardy’
10:33 am



Seeing Jeopardy host Alex Trebek and perpetual winner Ken Jennings recite classic hip-hop lyrics is one of the most amusingly dad-like things you will see all week.

Hearing such acutely caucasian people reciting lines from “Insane in the Brain,” “Mo Money Mo Problems,” and “The Humpty Dance” almost has the same effect as those classic Steve Allen bits where he recites pop song lyrics as poetry—and oh God, how I tried to find you a video of Allen’s jaw-droppingly hilarious reading of Donna Summer’s “Hot Stuff”—but it’s not being played for laughs.

Kidding around about whitey’s white whiteness aside, Trebek actually does an uncommonly dignified job at this, but then again, it’s not his first rodeo. I especially enjoy the moment at the end where everyone blows it on the one white artist in the bunch, and Trebek unleashes his inner Canadian on that song title’s pronunciation. Awesome.

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
‘Kiss My Baadasssss: Ice-T’s Guide To Blaxploitation’
10:53 am



Ice-T, still taking fashion cues from his superfly celluloid heroes
If you’re looking for a primer on blaxploitation cinema, I can’t imagine a more appropriate guide than Ice-T. “Kiss My Baadasssss: Ice-T’s Guide To Blaxploitation” has great commentary, with speakers ranging from feminist icon bell hooks to Isaac Hayes, but it’s Ice’s enthusiastic narration that truly sets the tone. He’s not kidding when he says “these movies were what made me”—the film even contains commentary from author, reformed pimp, and Ice’s namesake, Iceberg Slim. It’s a fair and sympathetic look at an influential (yet often unfairly maligned) genre, and it follows the trajectory of blaxploitation from its groundbreaking heyday to its descent into B movie madness.

The 1994 short was apparently an episode of a UK series called Without Walls, where (as far as I can tell), they just got interesting people to talk about something they liked or didn’t like, filmed them, and then edited it for cohesion. In this instance at least, the result is charming and (yes kids!) educational. While it’s pretty short, it’s a comprehensive little crash course in the blaxploitation genre.

Parts two and three can be found here and here.

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Artist creates massive sugar sphinx invoking ‘Mammy’ iconography
04:44 pm



The Domino Sugar refinery, an iconic part of the East River view from Manhattan and closed since 2004, is undergoing slow demolition. It’s a contentious subject. The building was erected in 1882, and while not everyone wants to preserve it, many locals in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn have expressed anger and frustration at the plan to erect luxury apartments on the land, further gentrifying the area. It’s amidst this conflict artist Kara Walker‘s exhibit, “A Subtlety,” finds an appropriate home.

The show is billed as an “homage to the unpaid and overworked artisans who have refined our sweet tastes from the cane fields to the kitchens of the new world on the occasion of the demolition of the Domino Sugar Refining Plant.” Walker’s monumental sphinx centerpiece is 75.5-feet long, 35.5 feet high, and 26 feet wide, with a “mammy” kerchief and caricaturized, animalistic stance. There are also amber-colored “Sugar Babies,” realistic, life-size children that drip and melt with a molasses-like substance. The work certainly feels like Walker, though the materials are unexpected, as she’s most well-known for her disturbingly beautiful silhouette depictions of the plantation South.

The slave labor used on sugar plantations in the Caribbean and Americas is the obvious reference, but it’s also worth noting that the purpose of a refinery is to remove the molasses from raw sugar, thereby turning brown sugar into a sparkling crystalline white. “A Subtlety,” which is free, will be open to the public Saturday, May 10th. It will be open Fridays 4 to 8 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays 12 to 6 p.m. until its close on June 6.

During construction, before being coated in sugar






Via Gothamist

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
‘What motherf*cking color are writers supposed to be?’: The righteous rage of Chester Himes
12:09 pm



Chester Himes’ early life was as disjointed and chaotic as the crime fictions he later wrote. Born in into an African-American family in Jefferson, Missouri 1909, Himes was witness to the racism endemic in the States at the time. His father worked as a teacher; he was the son of a slave and wanted to instil the value of education in Himes and his brother, Joseph Jr. Their mother thought she had married beneath her worth, and believed that being of lighter skin was the only way to progress in America—his mother’s emphasis on white skin color caused Himes some confusion (later reflected in Himes’ novels) of what it actually meant to be black. This mismatch of parentage led to an unsettling acrimony between his mother and father that pervaded Himes’ childhood. His mother eventually made a rent in the marriage by over-nighting in a “whites only” hotel, the following morning she told the management she was black. Word of the scandal caused Himes’ father to be fired from his teaching post and it was the start of his long and slow decline into failure.

The event that Chester Himes claimed filled him with guilt and anger was Joseph Jr.‘s blinding at school in a tragic accident. The brothers were to attend a chemistry class where they were to make gunpowder. After misbehaving, Himes was barred by his mother from attending the class. Joseph Jr. went alone, mixed the wrong chemicals and they exploded in his face. Joseph Jr.  was refused treatment at the first available hospital because of segregation and by the time he reached a black hospital, it was too late to save his sight. As Himes later wrote in The Quality of Hurt:

“That one moment in my life hurt me as much as all the others put together. I loved my brother. I had never been separated from him and that moment was shocking, shattering, and terrifying…. We pulled into the emergency entrance of a white people’s hospital. White clad doctors and attendants appeared. I remember sitting in the back seat with Joe watching the pantomime being enacted in the car’s bright lights. A white man was refusing; my father was pleading. Dejectedly my father turned away; he was crying like a baby. My mother was fumbling in her handbag for a handkerchief; I hoped it was for a pistol.”

Himes left high school with below average marks, but had ambitions to continue with his education and passed entrance exams for Ohio State University. Here Himes was shocked to see the way in which his fellow African-Americans accepted the way they were treated by racist whites. His anger drove him to action, and he was eventually expelled after a fist fight with a lecturer. Himes drifted and fell into a criminal life as a pimp, bootlegger and bank robber. He was eventually caught and sentenced to 20-25-years for armed robbery. Chester Himes was only nineteen years old.

In prison he started writing short stories about prison life, which were published in various black magazines, and eventually in Esquire magazine. Prison also showed him how humans will do almost anything to stay alive.

“There is an indomitable quality within the human spirit that can not be destroyed; a face deep within the human personality that is impregnable to all assaults ... we would be drooling idiots, dangerous maniacs, raving beasts—if it were not for that quality and force within all humans that cries ‘I will live.’”

Released from jail after seven years, Himes started his career as a writer. His early books, If He Hollers Let Him Go (1945) and Lonely Crusade (1947) examined elements of Himes’ ambiguous relationship to ethnicity and class.

“The face may be the face of Africa, but the heart has the beat of Wall Street.”

In later years, a friend wrote Himes saying he was “the most popular of the colored writers.” Himes responded:

“What motherfucking color are writers supposed to be?”

Himes was not easily swayed by simplistic political argument, and was critical of Left as much as he was of the Right. Instead he viewed his life as “absurd”:

“Given my disposition, my attitude towards authority, my sensitivity towards race, along with my appetites and physical reactions and sex stimulations, my normal life was absurd.”

This wasn’t the kind of absurdity Camus or Beckett would have recognized, but it was a response to life that was to reverberate with European audiences.

Himes never had the respect he deserved when resident in America, and it was only after his move to France that he was rightly acclaimed as a writer of great importance, power and true originality. It was also in France that Himes began the series of crime novels (the classic “Coffin” Ed and “Grave Digger” Jones series, which included A Rage in Harlem and Cotton Comes to Harlem) that placed Chester Himes on par with Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett.

The following video clips give a good introduction to Chester Himes his life and work.

More on Chester Himes, after the jump….

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Racist L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling is also an egomaniac who runs terrible, self-obsessed ads
09:17 am



Donald T. Sterling
So it turns out that the owner of the L.A. Clippers, Donald T. Sterling, is a loathsome racist who told his girlfriend V. Stiviano that recent photographs of her and Magic Johnson bothered him “a lot, that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people.” Naturally the media jumped on this and Sterling has been ridiculed and denounced just about everywhere. In racist Amerikkka, it’s nice to have such a clear-cut, undeniable example of racism so that even the “somewhat” racist crowd have an opportunity to prove how not-racist they are.

In addition to harboring these loathsome views, Sterling has committed some other unpardonable sins, first and foremost being just about the nastiest thing I could ever think to call anyone, a West Coast version of Donald Trump. Attentive readers of the L.A. Times will be familiar with these bizarre advertisements sprinkled about occasionally in which Sterling is touting not so much any enterprise he’s associated with, but Donald T. Sterling himself.

Here’s Irvine resident and astute blogger Kevin Drum describing the horror:

He gives away lots of money, and when he does he makes sure everyone knows about it. Ads thanking Sterling for his good deeds simply litter the Times. ... They’re all the same: they have terrible, amateur production values; they all use the exact same cutout portrait of Sterling; and they all feature photos of the people honoring Sterling that look like they were taken with a 60s-era Instamatic. These ads appear multiple times a week. Sometimes multiple times a day. Sterling is constantly being honored for something or other, and every single honor is an occasion for him to advertise the fact in the LA Times. And always with the exact same cutout photo of himself. It’s kind of creepy.

Here’s an example, taken from Sunday’s paper:
Donald T. Sterling
Here are a couple other examples of the light Sterling touch, always with the same stupid photo:
Donald T. Sterling
Donald T. Sterling
While we’re cataloguing the bizarre workings of Sterling’s brain, I have to mention quickly this amazing thing that Josh Marshall at TPM caught over the weekend. In 2003 Sterling sued a former mistress of his to get back the house he once gave her. Asked to identify his own handwriting, Sterling answered as follows (the questioner’s follow-up is just about the funniest thing ever):
Donald T. Sterling
By the way, apparently Sterling’s racist views have been public knowledge for quite a while now. In addition to this helpful Deadspin guide to Sterling’s racism going back decades, here’s comedian/rapper/entrepreneur Nick Cannon on ESPN nine months ago having difficulty defending the owner of his favorite basketball team (jump to the 1:30 mark):

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Invoking blackface, conservative idiot whines that Stephen Colbert is racist towards conservatives!
03:27 pm

Pop Culture


I seldom write about political matters anymore on DM because there’s an assumption that if you hate Republicans then you must automatically be a Democrat and I got tired of offering the disclaimer that the only reason I would ever vote for a Democrat is to keep the Republican out of office. Not only that, once-reliable traffic-generators like “Glenn Beck says something OFF THE WALL (again)” or “Sarah Palin says something IDIOTIC (again)” don’t really bring in that much traffic anymore. Republicans are fucking idiots. If they weren’t, then they wouldn’t be Republicans. Most people who read this blog probably don’t need anyone, including me, explaining that to them. I prefer to ignore them.

Today, though, I’m making an exception for the #1 dumbest rightwing reaction to Stephen Colbert taking over for David Letterman. This is just too good.

Young Ben Shapiro was once the wimpy “boy wonder” to Andrew Breitbart’s blob-shaped crusader and he usually makes about as much sense as his blustery late mentor, except that no one takes him nearly as seriously. Lil’ Ben is now the editor of a silly blog called Truth Revolt that no one reads except for lefty bloggers who want to mock him. He’s written a new book called How to Debate Leftists and Destroy Them and he’s proud of the fact that he was still a virgin on his wedding day.

Shapiro possesses pretty much the most punchable face I think I’ve ever seen. He fills me with visceral hatred. Which is kind of funny because in his latest Truth Revolt “think piece” Shapiro makes an inadvertently hilarious argument for the comedic genius, not to mention vital cultural importance of Stephen Colbert by complaining that:

“It is nearly impossible to watch an episode of The Colbert Report without coming away with a viscerally negative response to conservatives.”

Sharply observed, fuckwit! Give that man a Kewpie Doll…

But in the wake of all the conservative hand-wringing about Colbert replacing Letterman (Rush Limbaugh said that CBS was declaring “war” on the heartland with this pick) Babyface Ben sees something far more sinister going on:  Colbert IS a racist! He’s a racist against conservatives!

Blackface, which has an ugly history dating back to at least the fifteenth century according to historian John Strausbaugh, was used to portray demeaning and horrifying stereotypes of blacks. Such stereotypical imitation has not been limited to blacks, of course; actors tasked with playing stereotypical Jew Shylock often donned a fake nose and red wig, as did actors who were supposed to play Barabas in The Jew of Malta. Such stereotypical potrayals [sic] create a false sense of blacks, or Jews, or whomever becomes the target of such nastiness.

And this is precisely what Colbert does with regard to politics: he engages in Conservativeface. He needs no makeup or bulbous appendage to play a conservative – after all, conservatives come in every shape and size. Instead, he acts as though he is a conservative – an idiotic, racist, sexist, bigoted, brutal conservative. He out-Archie Bunkers Archie Bunker. His audience laughs and scoffs at brutal religious “Colbert” who wishes to persecute gays; they chortle at evil sexist “Colbert” who thinks men are victims of sexism. This is the purpose of Colbert’s routine. His show is about pure hatred for conservatives in the same way that blackface was about pure hatred of blacks. In order to justify their racism, racists had to create a false perception of blacks; in the same way, Colbert and his audience can justify their racism only by creating a false perception of conservatives.

No, no Ben, you’re confused. Colbert gives a very, very, very accurate portrayal of conservatives. Didn’t you just write:

“It is nearly impossible to watch an episode of The Colbert Report without coming away with a viscerally negative response to conservatives.”

It’s because conservatives are assholes, Ben. Like you. Someone who doesn’t get the fucking joke..

The comments below Shapiro’s logic-addled rant are as delicious as you might expect:

The only thing this article accomplished is making me think that I might not be too sad if society as a whole started systematically disenfranchising and dehumanizing conservatives. After all, if this guy is that attached to the blackface metaphor he should at least get to experience it for real firsthand.

Here’s another:

Is this an article or a rationalization? Sounds like more right wing sour grapes to me. Colbert’s character is successful because it is such a dead-on satire. You can listen to Rush and Fox News and conclude that Colbert is misrepresenting them as somehow worse, or more extreme than they really are? Laughable. Go re-examine your life. You’re on the wrong side.

Tee-hee. Expecting self-awareness from the likes of lil’ Ben seems a tad far-fetched, though.

Oh, brother. There’s this thing called satire and it always exagerrates its subject. That’s how it works. Minstrel shows weren’t satire. They were mockery and cultural appropriation. Is Mr Shapiro claiming that people are born conservative and Mr Colbert is stereotyping the entire conservative “race?”



What about?

it’s almost as if you’re providing the source material for him to be successful…oh wait, you have

Here’s another good one:

You just compared the schtick of a comedian on a comedy network to the institutional and societal approved degradation of a entire race of people. Which in addition to being monumentally stupid is also precisely why folks like Colbert mock conservatives, your feigned attempts at equivocating always shines a light on the underbelly of your magnificent ignorance.

Not sure if Ben Shapiro and Truth Revolt are important enough targets for Colbert and his writers to take notice of—some attention from him is what Shapiro seems to be aiming for with this insipid drivel—but it would be amusing to hear their take on how the author of How to Debate Leftists and Destroy Them scored such a humiliating own goal.

Meanwhile, Colbert did what he does best on last night’s program, totally pwning “Papa Bear”:


Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
‘Born in Flames’: Feminist terrorism in a post-capitalist dystopia
10:57 am



It’s been a hot minute since I watched a movie that really blew me away with its concept and vision, and I I have no idea how I only just discovered 1983’s Born in Flames. Everything about it is in my wheelhouse. Set in an alternative New York City, Born in Flames is a feminist telling of the injustices plaguing society after a socialist revolution. It goes without saying that a theoretical “post-capitalist patriarchy” is the subject of much debate among socialist feminists—the more “vulgar Marxist” of us believe that capitalism is the very foundation of oppression, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a socialist feminist proclaiming that the abolition of capitalism will be a silver bullet to end all sexism.

Of course, in Born in Flames, the “revolution” has actually changed very little in regards to the state or social order. Police still exercise an absurd amount of power, often wielding it violently, communities are still reliant on mutual aid for essential services like childcare, ghettos remain dilapidated, and meaningful work is scarce. A workfare program has been instituted to alleviate unemployment, but this triggers a macho backlash. Now, exacerbating the sexism and misogyny that pervaded pre-revolution, men are rioting, under the impression that women and minorities are taking all the “good jobs.” It’s by no means an unheard of scenario—phony revolution fails to placate the people, and the reactionary tendency is to blame the marginalized for social and economic woes.

The plot of the film centers on two factions of women, each with their own pirate feminist radio station. Radio Ragazza is run by a white lesbian named Isabel, played by Adele Bertei, a prominent figure in New York’s “No Wave” scene—she played organ and guitar in James Chance and the Contortions, and fronted The Bloods, rock’s first openly lesbian group. A black woman named Honey (played by an actress plucked from obscurity by director Lizzie Borden, and billed only as “Honey”) runs Phoenix Radio. When a famous feminist activist is arrested and dies in police custody, foul play is rightfully suspected, and unrest in the women’s movements grows. A vigilante Women’s Army appears, intervening on assaults against women in a stampede of bicycles—the media labels them terrorists, but Honey and Isabel, who once perceived these sorts of renegade tactics as a bridge too far, begin to see the need for escalation. The ideological leader of the Women’s Army is Zella, played by Florynce Kennedy, a real-life civil rights lawyer and feminist. (In the movie, Zella likens violence to urination—saying there is a time and a place. In real life, Florynce led a mass urination on Harvard’s campus to protest the lack of women’s bathrooms.)

Eventually, both radio stations are burned to the ground, but Isabel and Honey combine forces to create “Phoenix Ragazza Radio” from stolen equipment. “Ragazza” means “female friend, and “Phoenix” is the mythical bird that rises from the ashes; some may find the metaphor a bit heavy-handed, but the anti-obscurantist in me loves it. The pair join the Women’s Army, who are now moving to take over TV stations. Large-scale armed struggle appears inevitable. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but climax is astonishing, especially now, in a post 9-11 America.

Shot partially with a documentary-style narrative, the storytelling of Born in Flames is ambitious but expertly executed. Director Lizzie Borden, who also directed the 1986 classic, Working Girls, a feminist flick on the lives of high-end escorts, manages to masterfully weave FBI reports, news broadcasts, and radio transmissions with a traditional dramatic movie. Though it’s a fast-paced and brutal, much of the plot is centered around women’s negotiations and strategies—it’s a cinematic exploration of the old political question, “what is to be done,” and it directly addresses the question of necessary violence. I’ve never seen anything like it, and I cannot recommend it enough.

Eagle-eyed viewers will spot Eric Bogosian (in his first onscreen role), future Zero Dark Thirty director Kathryn Bigelow and Ron Vawter, one of the founders of the avant garde Wooster Group.

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Adele Bertei: ‘Adventures in the Town of Empty’

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Before Bad Brains, there was Pure Hell, the first African-American punk band
09:21 am



All it takes is at least one functioning eyeball to know that black faces in punk scenes can be few and far between. So when an African-American punk band contributes heavily to the invention of a genre and goes on to have a compelling and storied career like hardcore pioneers Bad Brains, or is rescued from obscurity and discovered to have been uncannily ahead of its time like Detroit’s celebrated proto-punks Death, it’s worthy of notice.

One such band, however, has not attracted notice to equal its gifts. That’s Philadelphia’s Pure Hell. Rocktober mag’s 2002 roundup of black punk musicians had this to say:

Often referred to as the first Black punk rock group, Philly’s Pure Hell (Spider, Stinker, Chip Wreck and Lenny Still) played around the U.S. in whatever few venues were available from ‘77-‘79, but really had a “career” when they went to England. Their overseas “discovery” was credited to Curtis Knight, who claims Jimi Hendrix as a discovery and who apparently decided he was the reverse Sam Phillips (“If I could only find a Black boy that played like a cracker…” see also NIKKI BUZZ). Their sole single released was the UK only “These Boots Are Made For Walking” b/w “No Rules” (Golden Sphinx, 1978) and it’s a pretty straightforward punk record. However, at the time their live show was described as sounding like everything from the Sex Pistols to Stax to Reggae. Martin of Los Crudos traded the Mentally Ill’s “Gacey’s Place” single for the Pure Hell 7”, so you know it’s a collector scum treasure! As huge Black guys with genuinely fucked punk-out hair and makeup, it’s surprising these fellows didn’t make it bigger, at least as a novelty (their look was enough to get their picture printed in Rock Scene and other mags).


These Boots Are Made For Walking by Pure Hell on Grooveshark


No Rules by Pure Hell on Grooveshark


It IS surprising they didn’t make it any bigger—they were a really fucking awesome band, good enough to make plenty of their better-known contemporaries look like pikers. Their recordings boast all the unaffected grime of the Dead Boys, the far-sighted musicality of the Voidoids, the metallic heft of the Stooges, excellent guitar playing, powerful vocals, a propulsive rhythm section, everything you need from this kind of music. The Rocktober blurb above cites their UK single as their only release, which was true at the time, but they also recorded a full-length LP that didn’t see release until the Massachusetts label Welfare Records issued a CD in 2005. That disc, Noise Addiction, is still (or again?) in print, and it’s superb. No, ESSENTIAL. I want ALL ‘70s punk to be this good.

Hard Action by Pure Hell on Grooveshark


Wild One by Pure Hell on Grooveshark


Rot in the Doghouse by Pure Hell on Grooveshark


Future by Pure Hell on Grooveshark


There have been intermittent reunions. A second album, Black Box, still remains unreleased, though it was recorded in the 1990s, and featured production and vocal contributions from one Mr. Lemmy Kilmister. And, despite the long-ago cancer death of drummer Michael “Spider” Sanders, there have been live appearances, including a 2010 WFMU in-studio appearance (preserved for your enjoyment on the Free Music Archive) and a 2012 reunion concert in the UK.

Here’s a great video with the band’s members talking about their origins and early days. The live footage is some killer stuff, and their recollections of the early punk years in NYC and London are priceless.

Major gratitude to Charles at My Mind’s Eye for turning me on to this band.

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Hear a broadcast from the Tokyo Rose, Japan’s World War II radio propaganda disc jockey
10:00 am



Iva Toguri
Iva Toguri D’Aquino
The Tokyo Rose is one of the more ingenious and chilling bits of psychological warfare in human history. During World War Two, in an effort to unnerve American GI’s and lower morale, the Japanese broadcast an English-language radio show hosted by a rotating roster of female voices. “Tokyo Rose” was the generic moniker given (by Americans) to all the announcers, but the most famous voice (and probably the one you hear in the broadcast below) was that of Iva Toguri D’Aquino, an American who had the misfortune to have been caring for a sick aunt in Japan when the war broke out. After the war, she was arrested and convicted of treason—apparently being a prisoner of war was no excuse for making a radio show. She wasn’t released until 1956.

The format of the show was actually pretty brilliant; in between coy “updates” on the war, (and insinuations of Japan’s impending attacks), Tokyo Rose would play the hits of the day. The show was incredibly popular among American serviceman. Rumors circulated that she possessed insider knowledge of American military actions. Some said she named specific servicemen as recent captures in her broadcasts—this is completely unsubstantiated, of course, and popular opinion is that the myth of Tokyo Rose flourished in the bewildered minds of her targets. And it that sense, the program was a complete success; Americans did overestimate the power and knowledge of Axis Japan.

Similar programs were employed by other Axis countries, including the insidious Lord Haw Haw in Germany, but none quite had the eery charm of Tokyo Rose, whose sweet voice and romantic tunes belied a brutal war.

Bonus: I’ve also included the grotesquely racist piece of American propaganda, Tokyo Woes. The 1945 Bob Clampett-directed Warner Brothers cartoon was only intended for viewing by the US Navy. Nothing sells war quite like racism and the promise of a hero’s welcome after a quick and easy victory.

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Nina Simone calls for ‘Revolution’ at the Harlem Cultural Festival, 1969
03:55 pm



The great Civil Rights-era “High Priestess of Soul,” Nina Simone was born on this day in 1933 in Tryon, North Carolina. Simone was one of the 20th century’s greatest—and most controversial—musicians, calling for armed and violent revolution by Black people so that African Americans could form a separate state. She was made to feel quite unwelcome in Nixon’s America and disappointed by the revolutionary and political movements she had been associated with, became a citizen of the world. “America had betrayed me, betrayed my people and stamped on our hopes,” she told interviewers. “No way am I ever going to go back there and live. You get racism crossing the street, it’s in the very fabric of American society.”

When Simone did finally return to the US, in 1985, she was immediately arrested for tax evasion (she had refused to pay taxes as a protest against the war in Vietnam). She died at her home in France in 2003.

In this utterly extraordinary footage of Nina Simone performing at the Harlem Cultural Festival in 1969 (“the Black Woodstock), she does her powerful song “Revolution,” of which John Lennon said in 1971:

“I thought it was interesting that Nina Simone did a sort of answer to “Revolution.” That was very good — it was sort of like “Revolution,” but not quite. That I sort of enjoyed, somebody who reacted immediately to what I had said.”

I think her idea of what sort of revolution was called for and his were quite a bit different. He was in the bag, so to speak, for peace. Simone wasn’t.

And now we got a revolution
Cause I see the face of things to come
Yeah, your Constitution
Well, my friend, it’s gonna have to bend
I’m here to tell you about destruction
Of all the evil that will have to end


Singin’ about a revolution
Because were talkin’ about a change
It’s more than just evolution
Well you know you got to clean your brain
The only way that we can stand in fact
Is when you get your foot off our back

If you want to see all of the jaw-dropping footage of Nina Simone at the Harlem Cultural Festival, they’ve pieced together her entire set over at Arthur.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
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