Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his I’ve Been to the Mountaintop speech on a Wednesday, April 3, 1968. His words were prophetic and resolute:
“…Like anybody, I would like to live – a long life; longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land. So I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord…”
He was fatally shot a day later. It was Thursday, April 4, 1968.
On Friday, April 5, 1968, Nina Simone’s bass player, Gene Taylor, still in shock and sorrow from the news, composed the song, Why? The King of Love is Dead. Nina Simone’s beautiful rendition was like much of her music, with the deep, low and haunting reaches of her contralto voice echoing a powerful expression of the time. Hers was a voice of the civil rights movement, the healing energy of black pride, of unity, of justice, and of humanity. Here too, we hear the articulation of that path, and its uncertainty, after the loss of the movement’s powerful, peaceful leader, Reverend Dr.Martin Luther King, Jr…as she asks why and what will happen, now that the King of love is dead?
European singer and writer, Lillian Terry, had a jazz radio show in Italy with an impressive roster of jazz artist interviews. In 1968, she added Nina Simone to that list, talking with her poolside at Ms. Simone’s Mount Vernon home in New York. The interview was never heard in the states. Blank on Blank presents the conversation beautifully in animated form. Nina Simone’s words, like her music, are the voice and spirit of the time.
A star so bright, it hurt your eyes to gaze upon it, but you had to look. It was dazzling, mesmerizing…and you never saw anything like it, before or since.
How it pulsed in rhythm and frequency determined where its waves originated, how they traveled, and what the star was made of. These variations set it apart from other stars, revealing the unique sound of the light. This celestial music was as vivid and brilliant as the light. I know. I was there from the start, watching, listening, sprinkled with stardust. It was luminous, amorphous, androgynous, rebellious, mellifluous, marvelous, glorious.
A star so far ahead of its time, was it using up its light faster than it should?
In the star’s evolution, it eventually loses its internal heat source, and becomes a white dwarf. This is its last visible stage — it is still shining because it is still hot. It can feel itself cooling, losing energy. A white star. A thin white duke. A resolute transformation, writing its endpoint, sharing it with you, celebrating it with you. It cools to meet the temperature of the cosmic surroundings, until it can no longer shine, and becomes invisible. Black into the blackness. A black dwarf. A Blackstar.
The brightest star was fearless, flawless, measureless, weightless, Lazarus…