- Nina Simone, Now
This Close-Up takes up the figure of Nina Simone as a musician, a political activist, and as a historical and visionary figure whose life and legacy we continue to grapple with today.
Over the last decade, Simone has resurfaced as a media icon, muse, and musical mother for contemporary artists and activists. Much like Simone's own genre-defying style during her life, twenty-first-century engagements with Simone range in style and format, including but not limited to Broadway musicals, hip-hop samples, Oscar-nominated documentaries, red carpet fashion tributes, and countless tribute concerts and song covers. In other words, Simone not only inspires but in fact shapes American culture in ways that were unimaginable during her peak commercial and popular success in the 1960s.
Simone began her career studying classical piano, moved into nightclub singing to make ends meet, and gradually developed a signature performance style that blended musical genres to become an expressive resource for major sites of dissent in the 1960s and 1970s, including the civil rights, Black power, and antiwar movements. Her music was taken up unofficially by the NAACP and by student groups like SNCC, even as she remained formally unaffiliated with any particular political organization. Now, Simone's body of work has taken on further afterlives as a resource for politically engaged artists and aesthetically minded activists as well as by generating new scholarship, thereby constituting a burgeoning field that we aptly call "Nina Simone Studies."
Though sound and song were her principal media, Simone also signified visually. Her archive comprises not just recorded music but photographs, concert footage, fashion, and other visual media. Many of these not (or not-just) sonic records form the basis for the afterlives she lives among contemporary artists. Accordingly, this Close-Up is particularly interested in the visuality of Nina Simone as well: how her visage, style, sound, and politics reverberate and are preserved and remediated.
Essays should concentrate on the ways that audio and visual aspects of Simone's life, career, and influence open a window into broader themes in the study of American culture, including relations among race, gender, aural and visual aesthetics, queerness, segregation, labor, cultural transmission, music history and production, and black internationalism. [End Page 5]
We seek submissions that examine
• history (including studies of Simone's biography, education, and reception)
• music (formal analyses of her oeuvre, and relations between Simone's music and associated performers or genres)
• politics (informal collaborations with SNCC, her rejection of nonviolence, her temporary expatriation to Liberia)
• aesthetics (her genre-spanning sound, her iconic style, her signature vocals, her performance strategy)
• collaborations (other artists with whom she worked or from whom she drew influence, including Lorraine Hansberry, James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, Miriam Makeba, Al Schackman, Bob Dylan, or David Bowie)
• visuality (debates about casting and portrayal of her appearance, features, and skin tone in film and documentary by artists including Gina Prince-Bythewood, Cynthia Mort, Liz Garbus, and Jeff Lieberman)
• afterlives and influences (artists who have sampled her work, such as the rappers Kanye West and Jay-Z; poets and writers who have memorialized her, such as Sonia Sanchez, Amiri Baraka, or Monica Hand; or painters and photographers who have depicted her, such as Bob Thompson or Carrie Mae Weems)
Please submit completed essays, a 150-word abstract, and a 50- to 100-word biography by January 15, 2019. Submissions should conform to The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th edition. Please see journal guidelines for more on submission policy.
Direct all questions, correspondence, and submissions to guest editors Jordan Alexander Stein (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Salamishah Tillet (email@example.com). [End Page 6]