To accompany the release of Netflix’s upcoming Nina Simone documentary, What Happened, Miss Simone?, a number of musicians have recorded covers of some of the jazz, blues and gospel icon’s most memorable songs. The compilation Nina Revisited: A Tribute to Nina Simone, which is due out on July 10th, features songs by Lauryn Hill, Mary J. Blige, Usher, Common, Alice Smith and Simone’s daughter Lisa, among others. The first to come out as a single is Hill’s sultry rendition of Simone’s 1965 bluesy vocal showstopper “Feeling Good,” which Rolling Stone is exclusively streaming below.
Hill originally agreed to record two songs for the record, but she became so swept up in the experience that she ended up recording six. She also went on to serve as a producer on the comp alongside Robert Glasper.
Jayson Jackson, the film’s producer who served as an executive producer on the album and previously as a member of Hill’s management team, found himself connected to Simone through Hill when they met on tour in 1999. “Nina was wheeled into her green room and told everyone to get out,” Jackson tells Rolling Stone. “I had no idea who she was and was prepared to bounce her from the room until I saw Lauryn’s mother shedding tears. I asked why she was crying and all she could muster was, ‘That’s Nina Simone, she is one of my heroes.’
“That began my journey of learning about Nina,” he continues. “Little did I know that some 13 years later I would meet her daughter and help get her amazing life story told. It’s been nothing short of an honor to shepherd these two amazing projects.”
In a statement, Hill offered, “Because I fed on this music, both hers and lovers like her, like my basic food, I believed I always had a right to have a voice. Her example is clearly a form of sustenance to a generation needing to find theirs. What a gift.”
Hill paid tribute to Simone in concert earlier this month at Harlem’s historic Apollo Theater, where the documentary What Happened, Miss Simone? got its premiere. At the show, a 19-piece band accompanied the singer, who sang tunes ranging from “Ne Me Quitte Pas” to “Black is the Color of My True Love’s Hair.” At the end of what Rolling Stone described as an “explosive” set, Hill said onstage, “Thank you Nina Simone for existing and being bold enough to speak.”
What Happened, Miss Simone? will premiere on Netflix on June 26th. The film, which Liz Garbus directed, features archival footage and rare recordings and tells the singer’s story mostly in her own words. Blige and eventually Zoe Saldana were both previously slated to portray Simone in a biopic titled Nina, which screened at Cannes in 2014, but it has yet to move forward.
Nina Revisited: A Tribute to Nina Simone Track List:
1. Lisa Simone – “Nobody’s Fault but Mine (Intro)”
2. Ms. Lauryn Hill – “Feeling Good”
3. Ms. Lauryn Hill – “I’ve Got Life” – Ms. Lauryn Hill
4. Ms. Lauryn Hill – “Ne Me Quitte Pas” – Ms. Lauryn Hill
5. Jazmine Sullivan “Baltimore”
6. Grace – “Love Me or Leave Me”
7. Usher – “My Baby Just Cares For Me”
8. Mary J. Blige – “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”
9. Gregory Porter – “Sinnerman”
10. Common & Lalah Hathaway – “YG&B”
11. Alice Smith – “I Put A Spell On You”
12. Lisa Simone – “I Want A Little Sugar In My Bowl”
13. Ms. Lauryn Hill – “Black Is The Color Of My True Love’s Hair”
14. Ms. Lauryn Hill – “Wild Is The Wind”
15. Ms. Lauryn Hill – “African Mailman”
16. Nina Simone – “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free”