Nina Simone was one of the most versatile and influential artists in American music history. With a repertoire that ranged from jazz to soul, and from blues to R&B, she has influenced generations. But what are the absolute top songs from her extensive oeuvre? Read on for our top 10 list!
10. Take Me to the Water
“Take Me to the Water” is an intriguing mix of spirituality and earthly emotions. The song weaves the longing for a higher power with subtle, human undertones. With her signature vocal style, Nina Simone gives deep soul to this song, making you feel as if you’re almost standing on the riverbank, waiting for salvation.
9. Go to Hell
This song proves that Nina Simone was also a master at expressing anger and indignation. “Go to Hell” is a direct, unfiltered emotional outburst. Simone’s vocals hit the right note every time, making this song a favorite for those moments when you want nothing more than to sing your frustrations away.
8. Love Me or Leave Me
This is a classic that Nina Simone made entirely her own. “Love Me or Leave Me” is a brilliant example of her ability to combine jazz and classical music. The piano evokes a Chopin prelude, while the vocals are pure jazz. A fascinating clash of worlds that only Simone could realize.
7. Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood
The pain of being misunderstood finds a voice in this song. Simone’s interpretation is so authentic that you believe every word. The arrangement is subdued, allowing her voice to take center stage. A must-listen for anyone wanting to understand the complexity of human emotions.
“Baltimore” is a socially conscious song that addresses the problems of the city of Baltimore. It is a powerful statement about America’s shortcomings. Here, it becomes clear once again that Nina Simone was not only a great singer but also a significant social commentator.
5. I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free
This song has become an anthem for civil rights and freedom. Simone’s rendition makes it clear why: she conveys the message with both subtle nuance and raw power. The lyrics are as relevant today as they were in the 1960s, highlighting the timeless nature of this masterpiece.
“Sinnerman” is an epic song where Simone delivers a stunning vocal and pianistic performance. The song lasts more than ten minutes, giving Simone ample space to show her musical and emotional range. The song builds up to a frantic tempo and leaves you completely overwhelmed by the power of her performance.
3. I Put a Spell on You
Another classic that Nina Simone brilliantly made her own. “I Put a Spell on You” is a song about desire and obsession, and Simone’s smoky voice makes for an unforgettable listening experience.
2. My Baby Just Cares for Me
One of Simone’s most famous songs, “My Baby Just Cares for Me,” is an ode to unconditional love. The combination of her mellifluous vocals and the cheerful piano makes this song one of the most infectious in her repertoire.
1. Feeling Good
“Feeling Good” is undoubtedly one of Nina Simone’s most iconic songs. It radiates an unparalleled joie de vivre and manages to put a smile on your face within seconds. Simone’s version is often considered the definitive one, and not without reason: from the first note to the last, this song is filled with pure, undiluted emotion.