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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Is this the definitive biography of Miss Simone? Afraid not!,
This review is from: Nina Simone: The Biography (Hardcover)
I looked forward to the publication of this book to see if the definitive book about this icon was about to be published. Unfortunately it is a book of two halves.
Part one: dealing with her early life until the end of her RCA contract in 1974 is little more than a rehash of Nina's autobiography albeit with a tidying up of the dates and chronology of events; something which plagued the autobiography.
Part two: gives a pretty comprehensive view of the final 20 years of her life. Strangely enough the final decade is dealt with comprehensively and with passion.
The faults of the book are:
1) David Brun-Lambert recounts his story in a strangely detached fashion as though observing her life through binoculars. When you read the source notes - Chapters 1 to 10 are almost exclusively sourced from the Autobiography and Sylvia Hampton's "Break Down and let it all out" biography. Only chapters 11 & 12 dealing with the final 10 years of her life has original source material.
2) The research is flawed, I doubt that he contacted the surviving members of the Waymon family for their thoughts. Sam Waymon appears a sketchy figure yet played in her band during the 1960's and early 1970's yet just a few mentions. Andy Stroud was not sourced. Unsure if Lisa (Simone) Kelly was contacted.
3) His appreciation of her catalogue appeared shallow - aside from a glowing review of "Sinnerman". He mentions her "Single Woman" album but fails to mention that the expanded edition is now available. His commentary of the album (3 paragraphs leads me to think he may not have listened to it or least only in a cursory fashion.)
4) There is no discography/sessionography at the end of the book a really major omission; especially in view of the fact new material, on CD and DVD, is being made available as we speak. Tantalizingly he mentions a catalogue of unreleased material that is held somewhere and may see release one day and then fails to give any information of when the material was recorded nor any details of the material! A cardinal omission in my book. The only hint he gives is that someone has heard it and feels it matches anything recorded in the 1960's! Very frustrating.
5) I felt Sylvia Hampton's biography whilst severely flawed had passion about her subject matter something Mr Brun-Lambert lacks - his effort feels more like a workmanlike journalistic assignment.
6) There is a distinct paucity of photographs, 15 in total - 8 I have seen before. Surely that implies a lack of research!
To be fair there are some new insights, his coverage of her severe bipolar disorder is full frank and at last exposed with both candor and sympathy. We have to remember that genius and madness can be close bedfellows. Had Nina not had her condition she may not have scaled the heights she did.
I have always been puzzled by Nina's troubles with the IRS following her split with husband, Any Stroud. We have no insights into this at all. Was he was a rogue or was it revenge? Where did all the money disappear to? Why did he vacate their marital home removing all his possessions and making himself completely unavailable to Nina? Since this was such a major factor in her fall from grace in the 1970's, why was this not put under the microscope?
One interesting factor is to view her Montreux 1976 DVD, in 1976 she was a deeply beautiful if troubled woman. The extras from the 1987 and 1990 concerts show a woman who aged rapidly, menopause perhaps? Her appearance at the Live at Ronnie Scotts 1984 performance show her still in full bloom. Comment is made how she put on weight in the final 10 years - I have a DVD of her 1997 performance in Sao Paulo and she has aged and put on weight but it seems more water retention, a side effect of her medication? No investigation is made of this factor.
Were it not for the final two chapters I would only have given the book two stars. Since the remainder of the book is basically a rehash of the autobiography and the Hampton biography.
Miles Davis has been graced with two outstanding biographies by Ian Carr and John Szwed. Nina has not been blessed with the same good fortune - so whilst an interesting read it cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, be viewed as the definitive work. For that, we will have to wait a little longer I guess.
3.0 out of 5 stars Well researched book but such a sad story,
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This review is from: Nina Simone: The Biography (Paperback)
Well researched book but desperately sad that she had such a difficult life. I am fed up with being asked for more words
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Nina Simone: The Biography by David Brun-Lambert (Paperback - 25 Feb. 2010)