Nina Simone has always been a figure covered in mystique: a one-of-a-kind voice in music history that seemed so burdened by feeling she could barely keep it in. What Happened, Miss Simone? certainly lifts the veil to a large degree: a film so filled with archive footage it is impossible not to get a three-dimensional view of Miss Simone. Most music documentaries celebrate the good moments in the subject’s career, and while What Happened, Miss Simone? certainly has a couple bright moments, it succeeds in portraying Simone’s deep sadness throughout her career.
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Jazz: The TV Mini-Series
Directed by Ken Burns
I’ve heard people talk time and time again about Ken Burns documentaries, but I’m actually not sure I’d ever seen one. Burns is sort of PBS’s documentarian extraordinaire, as he has done documentary series on everything America including baseball, the Civil War, national parks, and much more. Burns is so patriotic in his work, I bet there is a 12-part series on apple pie coming soon. Describing jazz as the only true American art form, it makes total sense that Burns would cover it at some point. The series is actually 14 years old, so you may ask why we are covering it now. Well it seems like Netflix grants new life to all sorts of content (old documentaries, classic TV series, and even TED Talks), this nearly 20 hour documentary series is now available to watch in a click from your queue. Jazz is an extraordinary beginner’s to jazz and its importance in American history.
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I’ll Take You There
There are few artists more beloved by the entire music community than gospel legend Mavis Staples. Mavis was celebrated a few months back in Chicago with a tribute concert for her 75th birthday at Auditorium Theatre with the likes of Arcade Fire, Greg Allman, Emmylou Harris, Bonnie Raitt, Aaron Neville, and more showing up to celebrate her birthday and legacy. There is also a documentary debuting at SXSW this year titled Mavis!, celebrating the joyful singer’s legacy and spirit. Jeff Tweedy of Wilco, who has produced her last two albums, even went as far as calling Mavis an “angel” when I saw him last summer, saying “if an angel’s purpose in life is to make other’s feel better, that’s exactly what Mavis is.” I got around to reading Chicago Tribune critic and Sound Opinion’s host Greg Kot’s new biography I’ll Take You There about Mavis, the Staples Singers, and her family’s legacy this past month, and now understand why Mavis and her family have so much adoration from so many sides of the music community.
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So with yesterday being the Fourth of July, you may be a little America’d out – or maybe you are the type of person that never gets sick of the old red, white, and blue. Either way, we opted for a list that isn’t straight up American patriotic songs (that list will come another time), but still captures the American spirit. We opted to do the best songs about freedom and independence, which is what is really at the core of the Fourth of July – going way beyond any mushy nationalism. We figured this works for everyone, including our international readers as well. Plus, Todd hates America, so staying away from a straight up American list was in the blog’s best interest to keep him from quitting. So here are the ten songs we thought best instill the spirit and message of freedom.
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