Two [African Diaspora] Women: Meshell Ndegeocello’s Praise Song To Nina Simone
Salamishah Tillet – NPR – Thursday, 25 October 2012 (originally published 24 Oct)
Nina Simone haunts. Meshell Ndegeocello hypnotizes. This difference is as subtle as it is crucial and is on full display in Ndegeocello’s latest album, Pour Une Âme Souveraine: A Dedication to Nina Simone, which came out earlier this month. In the past few weeks, she’s been performing songs from Simone’s vast repertoire during a small and intimate tour.
Modern twists and turns were the order of the night as Ndegeocello opened her concert at the World Cafe in Philadelphia last week with Simone’s lesser known, “Be My Husband.” I’ve often considered this tune, written by Simone’s ex-husband Andy Stroud, who passed away this July, more a work song than wedding ballad, a fitting expression of the emotional labor and psychological toil that defined their nine-year marriage.
Ndegeocello replaced the synchonized handclaps of Simone’s version with a heavy percussive beat and electrified guitar, and her steady chant “Be my husband man I be your wife” made the song relevant for a new era of sexual politics. Her sly movement between pronouns is classic Ndegeocello — she’s been known for celebrating her bisexuality and gender fluidity long before Frank Ocean and Lady Gaga made it more fashionable. When she followed this song with “Revolution,” Simone’s 1969 take on The Beatles‘ famous song, she both queered and further radicalized Simone for the next generation. In her hands, “Be My Husband” suddenly became a more seductive anthem for the marriage equality movement than “Born This Way” . . .
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