Trivia: Which recording artist has been battling with her producer over future projects? (Answer below)
The back-and-forth between Hollywood and others has taken a new turn. First it was #OscarsSoWhite where black actors were left out of the running. Now it’s real talk from folks in the clubs, blocks & streets of #NotBlackEnough. With Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone some are pondering women’s history in reverse.
The original Writer/Director Cynthia Mort told Entertainment Weekly “There are very different visions of what the movie could have been and should have been…” Considering we’re in Women’s History Month, some have come out strongly against the casting of Saldana while others want to give the film a chance.
It’s possible the mixed feelings say something about how people interpret Simone’s life and legacy. It might even help explain the reactions people have about Saldana’s casting and how they interpret America’s history. It’s a question of whose version do they understand, want to believe in or rely on.
Whether in the current political climate or in matters of social justice they’re those who tend to see the history of America only in the eyes of prejudice. But learning from game changers of our past, in forging American history it’s important to see purpose too. Saldana might have taken the role based on this view.
Simone’s music and impact were like the flipside to James Brown. She is described on her website’s official bio as a lyrical interpreter. A few of her favorite hits were remakes of prior written/recorded tracks of other well-known artists. They included Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holliday and Tina Turner.
It’s usually done with creative add-ons as artists do covers and actors do physical makeovers for a role. Recently, the artist Joe did his own take on Adele’s Hello. We’ve seen Robin Williams play Mrs. Doubtfire and Tyler Perry play Madea. Maybe Saldana saw this as a way to go deeper in her body of work.
A Simone bio quote says “…to make people feel on a deep level, it’s difficult to describe because it’s not something you can analyze; to get near what it’s about, you have to play it. And when you’ve caught it, when you’ve got the audience hooked, you always know because it’s like electricity hanging in the air.”
Is it that sort of vision that drew Saldana to the movie? It’s true for social change projects that make us feel a new sense of electricity in America. The current view is that things have gotten better over time. But there’s still a level of cultural uneasiness and displeasure that’s hard to explain/analyze as ‘strange fruit.’
Groove-tracks: Jill Scott – Strange Fruit – https://youtu.be/OkXAxpzE6Gk?t=85s
Prince – Baltimore – https://youtu.be/Gx2PCJaisqc?t=50s