In 1999, Nina Simone gave her final performance in London. It was at the Meltdown Festival, which that year was curated by Nick Cave.
In an introduction to a new book by his bandmate and collaborator Warren Ellis, Nina Simone’s Gum, Cave recalls being summoned backstage by the legendary singer, who demanded he introduce her as follows:
“I am DOCTOR Nina Simone!” she roared.
“OK,” Cave replied.
In front of an awestruck audience, Simone sat down at the Steinway. She took a piece of chewing gum from her mouth and stuck it on the piano. “She raised her arms above her head and, into the stunned silence, began what was to be the greatest show of my life – of our lives – savage and transcendent,” Cave writes.
At the end of the show, Ellis lurched towards the stage as though possessed. Reaching the Steinway, he peeled off Simone’s gum and tenderly wrapped it in a stage towel. This he kept with him for the next two decades, until it went on display at Cave’s Stranger Than Kindness exhibition at Copenhagen, Denmark in 2019.
And now the gum is the subject of a short, wryly funny book. It poses a number of questions: what meaning do we place on seemingly insignificant objects?… Read more..