As part of the 2014 documentary cum biopic of legendary prowling man Nick Cave, the brilliant film 20,000 Days on Earth, leading man Cave offers up a quite astonishing story between himself and the undeniable icon Nina Simone.
However, the original clip, which you can see below, is wholly more satisfying. It’s a story that provides a crucial viewpoint of Simone and the ticking mechanisms behind Nick Cave’s love affair with her and his creation.
The scene here involves Cave speaking with a psychoanalyst about his encounter with one of the greats at a show of hers in London. Cave begins, “Nina Simone is hugely important for me. She is the real thing.” He continues: “We’re far from the experience of the blues people. But for me, from a literary point of view, there was a haunting and beautiful use of words.”
The Ghosteen singer offers up a curious tableau of the scene as Simone. Long past an age when one’s willingness to comply with very much of another’s thoughts or feelings is going up in flames like so many bridges, sitting in her wheelchair, surrounded by lackies and phonies looking for a buck, framed by a giant sunglasses, with “a horrific expression on her face”. She’s scheduled to be meeting this tall, dark and handsome goth cowboy known as Nick Cave. Nerves are palpable.
“I want you to introduce me, and I want you to get it right… It’s Doctor! Nina Simone.” She answered to Cave’s request for what he could offer her as her entourage quaked in fear of the wrath of Simone’s aging temper. Cave left feeling a little chided and worried about the performance scheduled for later that evening.
However, as Nick Cave and the rest of London was about to learn, Nina Simone can turn it on whenever she damn well pleases. On that night, she chose to turn it on. Simone arrived on to the stage, “took the gum she was chewing out of her mouth and stuck it on to the Steinway and glared at the piano like it was her enemy and just thundered into the song,” Cave fondly remembers.
“As the songs progressed they got more and more beautiful and she became inflated with the whole thing. It was just an absolutely chilling thing to see. By the end of it, she had been kind of transformed and redeemed in some way.”
Watch the clip below with Nick Cave sharing his first encounter with Nina Simone at the 1999 Meltdown Festival in London.