July 29, 2020
Simone’s prowess on the piano and her exceptional baritone were intact, but this show can be tough to watch for the uninitiated Read all of the pieces in this seriesThe enduring image of Nina Simone is one of a sharp, radical, no-nonsense artist. But on stage at the Montreux Jazz festival in 1976, dressed in a form-fitting black dress with her hair cropped short, Simone cut a different figure from the one for which she is remembered. The piano virtuoso, who usually kept audiences eating out of the palm of her hand, seemed skittish and disoriented.
Nina Simone, Montreux Jazz 1976: a difficult, unsteady return to the limelight
Set along the shores of picturesque Lac Léman, Montreux Jazz is a glitzy affair in one of the world’s most expensive countries. Simone performed at the festival several times between 1968 and 1990, but by the time she got to Switzerland in 1976, she was broke. She had left her husband and the United States in the early 70s, worn out by an abusive marriage, the loss of great Friends including Lorraine Hansberry and Langston Hughes, the toll of the civil rights fight and the career consequences of prioritising activism in her music over radio-friendly fare.
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