By Thato Magano (@ThatoMagano)
While trollling Sunday morning IG to avoid #FOMO, Thato Magano discovered a ‘show stopping’ performance by Lauryn Hill of the legendary Nina Simone’s ‘Feeling Good’. He shares with us how he believes Miss Hill when she sang ‘you can’t that away from me/ I’m feeling good’ and calls the performance a tribute to the legacy of Miss Simone and a statement by the artist.
This past Sunday, I had dedicated my morning to catching up on some reading that I had been putting off during the week. However, before I could get on with it, I decided to give myself a dose of social media before #SundayTwitter started in earnest so I did not suffer much #FOMO. And while trolling my IG, I came across a headline with the words; Lauryn Hill, a ‘show stopping’ performance and ‘Feeling Good’. As it usually happens when I come across anything about any of my faves, reason escaped me. I forgot about reading and was on a mission to find videos of this performance.
And after I did, for two and half hours and countless repeats, I found myself ruptured and mesmerised by Lauryn Hill’s tribute performance of ‘Feeling Good’, which is part of the six track contribution she makes to the soundtrack of the Netflix original, ‘What happened, Miss Simone’ a woven documentary of over 100 hours of archival footage, diary entries, family interviews and radio and television interviews into a narrative of Nina Simone’s life.
For years, after The Miseducation, Lauryn Hill’s public image has been marred by reports of lacklustre performances, shows that start hours late and sometimes not showing up at all, leading to much criticism and even calls of a boycott by those who felt that they had been sufficiently disappointed by the artist. So one can imagine the excitement when the headline said ‘show stopping’. However, I would dare to say that the performance lived up to and surpassed the albatross.
It is more than just show stopping. It was transcendent. It was church. It was soul, it was blues. It was Simone, it was Hill. If one grew up in the tradition of the church and is to believe that when they die, the gates of heaven, along with all the angels that will receive them, would be lined up with heavenly sounds; then this performance was as near to that vision as anything that I have seen in a long time. All of it!
The band, the interpretation of the song, staying as true to the mastering of the original as possible, the extended reinterpreted scat that is infused with jazz and reggae undertones when the song breaks for effect, the perpetual smiles on the faces of the backing vocalists and the band, the guitarist revelling in the domain of the ethereal, the orchestral electrification of the stage and the audible claps from the audience indicating their pleasure.
All of it; a wonderful work of art from an artist who had something to say, and with a singularity of vision, to honour Miss Simone.
And more than all of this, what kept me beguiled for the hours I kept hitting the replay button, is the confidence of Miss Hill the entire five minutes. It was as though the spirit of Miss Simone coursed through her veins and the combination of the two’s artistry was manifested for all to see. A long time admirer of Miss Simone, having included the line “So while you’re imitating Al Capone/ I’ll be Nina Simone / And defecating on your microphone,” in the 1996 Fugees track ‘Ready or Not’, Lauryn met the moment and fully captured the spirit of Miss Simone in a way that I do not imagine that even Zoe Saldana will be able to offer us when the feature biopic ‘Nina’ in which she stars, is released later this year.
It was a tribute and a statement at the same time. When she sings the line “you can’t take that away from me/ I’m feeling good”, which is not an original lyric in the standard version of the song, I believe her. I believe that after all that has been said and written about her, she is not there anymore. She is feeling good and there is nothing any of us can do to take it away from her or even to change it.
After years of hearing this song butchered for Idols auditions, popularised by Michael Bublé and sung by Jennifer Hudson for her WeightWatchers campaign, none of them have done for the song and Miss Simone’s legacy what Lauryn does in this performance. I cannot wait to watch the documentary and to own a copy of the soundtrack. Judging from this performance alone, the compilation will be one for the ages.
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