In 1966, American singer, songwriter, musician arranger and civil rights activist Nina Simone (1933-2003) released her sixth studio album, Wild Is the Wind. The album was assembled from recordings left over from previous recording sessions. (Please check out my post on Simone’s cover of “I Put a Spell on You” for more about her life and career.)
Russian-born American conductor and film composer Dimitri Tiomkin (1894-1979) and American lyricist Ned Washington (1901-1976) wrote “Wild Is the Wind” for the 1957 film of the same name. David Bowie (1947-2016) also covered the song in 1976 on his Station to Station album, styling his version to honour Simone’s.
As was the case with “Wild Is the Wind,” today’s selection, “Lilac Wine,” has been covered by numerous other artists, including Jeff Buckley (1966-1997), Eartha Kitt (1927-2008), John Legend, Miley Cyrus, Jeff Beck, the Cinematic Orchestra, and others.
Guy Garvey played Simone’s rendition of “Lilac Wine” during his February 7 episode of Guy Garvey’s Finest Hour. I don’t believe I’d ever heard it before. It’s a captivating song with its simple piano melody and Simone’s powerful vocal. She laments the loss of her lover and takes solace in wine made from the lilac tree she sits beneath. (Coincidentally, on the topic of sitting underneath trees, yesterday at an online poetry-reading circle, a friend shared the William Blake (1757-1827) poem, “A Poison Tree,” which tells the story of a person’s anger toward another, leading to murder. Like he did with many of his poems, Blake painted an illustration to accompany it.)
I also like the Cinematic Orchestra’s interpretation; they capture Simone’s vocal style and sound quite well. However, I couldn’t find an official release of their rendition, recorded as part of a 50th-anniversary celebration by Dr. Martens (aka Doc Martens), the shoemaker. But I did find the video the digital design firm Blind produced to accompany it for the project.
I savour Garvey’s eclectic taste in music and the many artists his program has introduced to me. I’ll miss him while he takes a few months away to work on an Elbow record. Maybe I’ll sit under a tree and listen to his music sometime while I await his return to the airwaves…
Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.
Here’s the video for the song from Nina Simone’s official YouTube channel:
Full, unofficial lyrics of the Nina Simone version are available courtesy of AZLyrics.com.
And, the Cinematic Orchestra’s version/Blind video: