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.