Nick Cave celebrates Nina Simone in latest Red Hand Files essay

"Perhaps, this is the voice of protest we need right now"

Nick Cave has shared his latest Red Hand Files essay, in which he praises Nina Simone and her live recording of ‘My Sweet Lord’.

Answering a question about whether or not there is a protest song he greatly admires for the way it was written or arranged, Cave highlights Simone’s rendition of George Harrison‘s 1970 song, which was a part of her 1972 live LP, ‘Emergency Ward!’, which showed her opposition to the Vietnam War.

The question came after Cave recently said that writing political songs is “just not what I do” in a Red Hand Files edition.


“Nina Simone’s interpretation of George Harrison’s gentle cosmic entreaty ends up, in her hands, as a howl of spiritual abandonment and accusation,” Cave began his latest Red Hand Files essay.

“This rendition is a gospel thrill ride, with mantras, wild syncopated handclaps and weird background whoops, courtesy of the Bethany Baptist Church Junior Choir of South Jamaica, New York,” he said. “The Hare Krishna chant has been removed and more ‘Hallelujahs’ have been added as Nina reaches back to her Methodist roots and proclaims.”

“In this extraordinarily bold statement, Nina Simone stands defiant in the face of spiritual oblivion, and a world (and God) that so readily allows war and senseless carnage to occur, he continued. “It is a protest song par excellence that serves as a form of transport, a vehicle that takes us on a complex and nuanced journey into transcendent rage. The song itself becomes a forge of fury, where Nina Simone stands conflicted and defiant and, in the final lines, pulls the heavens crashing down around our ears.”

Calling her “a living grievance machine” because of the racial and gender barriers she was forced to face on her way to earning the respect that she deserved at the time, Cave added that Simone’s strength, talent and music may be what the world needs right now.

Read the full essay here.


Meanwhile, Cave has announced details of a new livestreamed solo show, filmed in an empty Alexandra Palace.

Idiot Prayer sees the Bad Seeds frontman deliver a unique performance of tracks from throughout his career, including early rarities and songs from Grinderman, right up to his latest acclaimed album ‘Ghosteen‘.

The show was filmed in the West Hall of the iconic London venue by award-winning cinematographer Robbie Ryan (The Favourite, Marriage Story, American Honey) and was edited by Nick Emerson (Lady Macbeth, Emma, Greta).

You May Like