TO Nina Simone he liked to repeat to himself a phrase that his friend the writer used to tell him James Baldwin: "This is the world that you have created for yourself, Nina. Now you have to live with him. " When the singer was overcome with sadness, she resorted to the reflection of the author of Go and say it on the mountain, which, like her, was one of the biggest scourges against racism in the United States in the second half of the 20th century. Tall and ungainly, with her thousand-year-old pharaonic aura, Simone (Tryon, North Carolina, 1933-Carry-le-Rouet, France, 2003) confessed in her memoirs an insecure person, lack of love and continuous struggle against herself , but, especially, against the world that he had lived, marked by fame and racial segregation in his country.
The publisher Libros del Kultrum publishes in Spanish the autobiography of the diva with the title of Victim of my spell, published in 1991 in English under the name I Put A Spell On You. The translation is in charge of Eduardo Hojman. In spite of the sincerity that Simone's words seem to give in her review of her life, it is important to point out a definitive fact about this book: the singer published her memoirs shortly before knowing that she was suffering from bipolar disorder. Then, the first black pianist to play at Carnegie Hall, in Manhattan, was unaware of the disease that fueled much of its indomitable and volcanic nature. So much so that appeared in the pages of events, beyond his problems with the US Treasury, shooting two young fans who bothered her in his garden. In this way, their strong depressions and outbursts of rage were linked to this psychological disturbance, as they are told in other biographies and in the documentary What happened, Miss Simone?, directed by the director Liz Garbus in 2015.
There is hardly any trace of his disorder in the almost 300 pages of Victim of my spell. Simply, one senses when Simone narrates a transient madness that suffers before a concert and that blames the exhaustion for so many years followed by tours and recordings. "She was rich and famous, but she was not free," she writes. "Sometimes I thought that my whole life had been a search for a place where I truly belonged," he reflects. Apart from his bipolarity, he always longed to find that place. As music journalist Dave Marsh says in the prologue to Victim of my spell: "For Nina Simone, art was intimately related to the desire to live as a free person." An affirmation that is found in the development of his professional career, which ended up far from the United States, from the seventies. He came to live in Barbados, Liberia, Switzerland, England and France, where he died in 2003 while he was sleeping in a spa town near Marseille.
The desire for freedom was the engine of the world that she herself created with talent and tenacity. With a quiet childhood in North Carolina, Simone left everything for her musical career since she was instructed at age 11 by a white classical music teacher. Thus, he left with 17 years to Philadelphia to train and gave up the great love of his life, a boy named Edney, with whom he lost his virginity. Years later, already turned professional singer, wanted to recover it again, but it was impossible. He rejected her, but she never forgot him. Since then, he always had a high concept of love. He also left behind his mother, a religious pastor who never accepted the "worldly" music her daughter dedicated herself to when, rejected in the conservatories because of the color of her skin, she played in Atlantic City gambling dens. "Mama was a fanatic", says Simone, who was persecuted by the death of her sick father, from whom she never said goodbye after an argument.
In his world there was also an unwavering commitment to his values. He went from singer of heartbreakers to musical leader of the fight against racial discrimination, leading the March of Selma, in March 1965. He was inspired by the activist Stokely Carmichael, which he fell in love with, but a previous event was decisive: the death of four black girls in 1963, in a bomb attack in a school in Birmingham (Alabama). Hatred invaded her. "I wanted to go out and kill someone. I did not know to whom, but to someone who opposed that my people obtained justice for the first time in three centuries. " He came to take a gun, but in the end he wrote Mississippi Goddam, whose letter reads: "You are not obligated to live by my side, but give me only equality".
With similar virulence with which she denied her country and sympathized with the armed struggle, she complained about the music industry since she was swindled with her first contract. He did not know how to fight "the dishonest and cruel world" of the business, but he tried to seek independence from the big companies. By the time he was living in France, knowing that the US was no longer his home, he wrote: "I was holding the same thing that I was defending in the past: that the music industry is full of thieves, that the USA is a racist country and that 20 years later he continued to punish black citizens who had become involved in the movement. " The world of Nina Simone was always a world in struggle. A constant combat, also against itself.