Yola Sings Nina Simone's 'To Be Young, Gifted and Black' on 'Seth' - Rolling Stone
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Yola Covers Nina Simone’s ‘To Be Young, Gifted and Black’ on ‘Seth Meyers’

Vocalist delivers an empowering, celebratory take on the civil rights anthem

U.K. soul singer Yola performed Nina Simone’s “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” onstage at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium for a Tuesday night appearance on Late Night With Seth Meyers.

Filmed in the empty venue, with its recognizable stained-glass windows illuminated behind her, Yola and her band delivered an empowering, joyful take on the 1970 civil rights anthem, which first appeared on Simone’s Black Gold album. “Playing ‘To Be Young, Gifted and Black’ means so much to me. I grew up with that song and it was the first time I felt a song was directed at me, in a world that didn’t represent me in any way,” Yola said.

Yola also announced her headlining debut at the Ryman. She’s set to play the Nashville theater on May 11th, 2021, which, assuming touring resumes, is shaping up to be a high-profile year for the vocalist. She’s also slated to open dates on Chris Stapleton’s summer tour. Yola released her debut album Walk Through Fire, produced by Dan Auerbach, in 2019.

On Thursday, she and Brandi Carlile will sit down for a virtual conversation as part of the Americana Music Association’s Thriving Roots conference. In addition to her solo work, Yola has recorded and performed with Carlile and the Highwomen.

Yola will also be part of PBS’s Great Performances: Grammy Salute to Music Legends, set for October 16. The show honors Chicago, Roberta Flack, Isaac Hayes, Iggy Pop, John Prine, Public Enemy, and Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Yola will play Tharpe’s “Up Above My Head, I Hear Music in the Air.”

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