EURWEB spoke with Simone about her covering her legendary mother’s classic song “Four Women,” along with Ledesi, Laura Izibor and of course vocals from Nina Simone herself, for the highly-anticipated Tyler Perry film “For Colored Girls.”
Some of our readers are familiar with the songstress through the powerful legacy left behind by her venerable mother who R&B mainstay Mary J. Blige is slated to play in a upcoming film.
The conversation took a turn in a different direction when we asked Simone her opinion of recent statements made by Mary J. in which she is quoted as saying the late legendary Nina Simone was a “drug addict” when asked what she and the late entertainer/activist had in common.
The air stood still for a time following Lee Bailey’s query.
“Yes I was sitting here praying as you said that because I was saying ‘I hope the right thing would come out my mouth’,” she joked. “All I can say is if you’re going to do a movie about a great public figure I think it behooves you as a person who has decided this is what they want to do, to do their due research so that you can embody the character and bring the most that you can of their personality to the screen. After having read Mary J. Blige’s comments (yesterday) that just kind of capped off (in my mind) that I don’t think that’s been done.”
Unlike many children of famous celebrities, Simone is filled with respect and admiration for her deceased mother. It was also clear that she would correct anyone she feels is disseminating incorrect information. That was made crystal clear by what she had to say next.
“That’s very disappointing and disconcerting for me because now information is being put out that is not true. My mother was not a drug addict,” she continued. “She was many things but a drug addict is not one of them. That’s the best way that I can put it right now. I’m attempting to reach out to her so that maybe through us sitting down and talking she can get a better idea of who my mother was, what made her tick and why she did the things that she did. I don’t know who she’s been talking to or whose been talking to her, but obviously we need to get together.”
“My mother was very complex,” admitted Simone. “She’s been dead now … this coming April, 2011 will be eight years. Since my mother passed away what was left of the rose colored glasses of my childhood died with her. As the administrator of her estate, a mother, business woman and entertainer I’m walking very closely in her footsteps. In the last eight years I’d like to think that I’ve gained a much deeper understanding of her. She was mommy all my life where as now she’s Nina: the woman, the person, the human being. And it’s really helped me heal these past eight years.”
Now that we’re all aware of what’s not true regarding the extensive legacy Nina Simone, what exactly is true?
“My mom, from the time she was a child, was trained for the stage,” she explained. “Classical music was her first love and, when you think of the fact that at the time she was dealing with segregation, lynchings and God knows what else. Here you have this brownie colored girl who was always told ‘your lips are too big, your nose is too wide and you’re too dark’. She worked toward a dream for 15 years trying to become a classical pianist only to have been rejected because of her skin color. Can imagine working that long towards one goal only to have it shatter in your face and having to pick up the pieces and figure out the direction you’re going to go in next? Obviously destiny had another plan. After she began singing in Atlantic City and became famous and went on from there her destiny was to speak out for her people. Her destiny was to do a heck of a lot more in terms of our history and our civil rights in this country than classical music would have a afforded her. But she paid a huge price for the gifts that she had, she paid a huge price for the choices that she made. My mother was one of the loneliest people that I knew. She was an artist who was amazingly gifted and left us with some pearls that will go down in history. However, she was not fulfilled or at peace because she didn’t know how to just be. She was always working towards something. In the understanding I’ve gained of her I ask myself, what would I have done in that situation? What would any of us have done in that situation?”
Though the late Nina Simone’s daughter is a singer/actress, she is also the staunch guardian of her mother’s legacy. In this age of Internet blogs, Wikipedia and soundbyte sized news it’s very easy for the wrong information to slip through. But Simone is not about to see her mother’s legacy become misunderstood.
“I think she was extremely courageous and I think she’s at peace right now,” said the younger Simone, becoming noticebly emotional. “So, when people like Mary J. Blige make the statements like she’s making it behooves me as my mother’s daughter and the administrator of her estate to correct any untruths that are spoken. Mommy’s life was difficult enough. She had enough shit she had to deal with and enough monikers attached to her.”
“For Colored Girls” is slated to hit theaters nationwide on November 5th and the soundtrack, to be released on Atlantic Records, will feature the legendary Gladys Knight, Estelle, Anika Noni Rose, and Simone, of course.
We will have more from Simone in an upcoming edition of EUR.