James Baldwin / Nina Simone

Nina Simone & James Baldwin


James Baldwin has often been credited, along with other New York/Harlem-bred artists, for exposing Nina Simone to much of the literature which would go on to form the basis of her musical work. Nina Simone, like Baldwin, was often viewed as a very controversial figure in her relative artistic/political field for her outspoken and often aggressive message. This fact is perhaps what makes me appreciate this photo even more, it is visual proof of their belief in love and happiness. Both of these artist’s work share similar notions of love, equality, and giving a voice to the voiceless.

Nina Simone: Live (click photo for youtube video)

Nina Simone: Live (click photo for youtube video)


Within her song “Ain’t Got No, I’ve Got Life,” Nina Simone speaks on the value of perspective when life gets tough.

I ain’t got no home, ain’t got no shoes
Ain’t got no money, ain’t got no class
Ain’t got no skirts, ain’t got no sweater
Ain’t got no perfume, ain’t got no beer
Ain’t got no man

Ain’t got no mother, ain’t got no culture
Ain’t got no friends, ain’t got no schooling
Ain’t got no love, ain’t got no name
Ain’t got no ticket, ain’t got no token
Ain’t got no God

Then what have I got
Why am I alive anyway?
Yeah, what have I got
Nobody can take away

Got my hair, got my head
Got my brains, got my ears
Got my eyes, got my nose
Got my mouth, I got my smile

I got my tongue, got my chin
Got my neck, got my boobs
Got my heart, got my soul
Got my back, I got my sex

I got my arms, got my hands
Got my fingers, got my legs
Got my feet, got my toes
Got my liver, got my blood

I’ve got life
I’ve got my freedom
I’ve got life

I’ve got life
And I’m gonna keep it
I’ve got life
And nobody’s gonna take it away

Though in the live version I have posted some of the lyrics vary slightly, the message is essentially identical. James Baldwin, as certainly as Nina Simone does, fights for the true meaning of love to shine through the artificial superficialities which American society has propped up.

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