Throughout the many trials, tribulations and misuses of her career, Nina Simone learned the ways of a galvanised backbone. On this strangely comical occasion, however, that fierce defiance admittedly went well over the line if her confession is to be believed.
The cantankerous characteristics of Dr Simone are perhaps best defined in a story that comes courtesy of the quasi-concert film 20,000 Days on Earth during which Nick Cave and Warren Ellis describe having booked Simone for a concert at a time when she was ill, ailing and as snappy as a crocodile card game.
Warren Ellis describes her performance as “one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen.” To which Cave adds, “Do you remember before she started playing, she just removed her chewing and just stuck it straight on the piano.”
They then go on to recite a moment that a runner went into her room pre-gig and asked if everything was alright to which she replied, “I’d like some champagne, some cocaine and some sausages.” That is an insight into her devil-may-care feistiness that helps to colour the following tale with context.
Her issue on this occasion pertained to the greedy cash-grabbing hand of the music industry’s big wigs. Not one to be pushed about Nina Simone took matters into her own hands and attempted to kill an exec, as she confessed in an interview with the BBC back in 1999.
Details are of course sparse, so it is unclear who the potential victim was, other than the fact that it took place in Switzerland. And the only reason that this article remains tonally light-hearted is that somehow her confession is an ecstatically jubilant affair that betrays the sincerity of her motives.
Whilst the clip leaves you in no doubt that it actually happened, her charming humour disarms the situation and reveals a truth that it wasn’t a genuine murder attempt and more so a signifier that she would not take fools gladly. Though I must judiciously caution against her actions, she most certainly would’ve been paid and seeing as though it took place in a restaurant and no charges were pressed it couldn’t have been considered too condemning, despite her quip that she was “sorry I didn’t get him.”
Throughout her career, she transfigured suffering and hardship into a thing of beauty and this clip is another example, albeit an ethically nettlesome one, that she also coloured the world with the hue of her charms.
Take a look at the frankly baffling clip, below.