Nick Cave has often been vocal about his heroes. From praising Dylan to Leonard Cohen, all the way back to his past muse PJ Harvey, Cave loves to show his respect to artists past and present.
Nick Cave has always been incredibly open in his Red Hand Files essays, and his newest piece on Nina Simone is no exception.
Damian, a fan from Melbourne, posed the question, “Is there a protest song out there that you greatly admire for the way it was written or arranged?”. This is in response to Cave’s post regarding why he doesn’t write political music. Cave answered Damian’s question by saying that Nina Simone’s 1972 live album Emergency Ward! was his favourite piece of political music.
He went into a long discussion on Simone’s cover of George Harrison’s song ‘My Sweet Lord’. Cave states, “Nina Simone’s interpretation of George Harrison’s gentle cosmic entreaty ends up, in her hands, as a howl of spiritual abandonment and accusation.”
Later in the essay he explains, “In this extraordinarily bold statement, Nina Simone stands defiant in the face of spiritual oblivion, and a world (and God) that so readily allows war and senseless carnage to occur. It is a protest song par excellence that serves as a form of transport, a vehicle that takes us on a complex and nuanced journey into transcendent rage. The song itself becomes a forge of fury, where Nina Simone stands conflicted and defiant and, in the final lines, pulls the heavens crashing down around our ears.”
Cave finally concludes that this may be the kind of protest we need right now. Check out the full essay here and Nina Simone’s incendiary performance below.